Reducing complexity and improving confidence and trust in the water market will be the focus for a newly appointed Murray-Darling Basin advisory group.
The group of eight consists of technical experts, water market users and stakeholder representatives.
It will be helmed by former federal Agriculture and Water Resources Department Secretary Daryl Quinlivan.
Mr Quinlivan is no stranger to the agricultural sector and is the current NSW Agriculture Commissioner and Sheep Producers Australia policy council chairman.
Establishing the group was one of the recommendations in the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry report, released in March.
As principal advisor, Mr Quinlivan will lead the development of a roadmap to inform the federal government's response to the report.
Mr Quinlivan said there seemed to be general agreement that the ACCC's diagnosis of the problems within the water market was correct.
"Two of the key problems, and they are related, are the complexity of the market and the complexity of transactions within that market," he said.
"The second one is a persistent lack of confidence and trust by market participants in the way the water market is operating."
Mr Quinlivan said regulatory changes will be needed in some instances.
He cited oversight of intermediaries like brokers and simplifying water market rules such as inter-valley trades as possible examples of this.
"But perhaps most important of all, measures need to be taken to improve the supply of information about water resources, the trade in water resources and transactions," he said.
"Making that information more readily available to all participants in a way that will improve equity between the larger and more sophisticated participants, most of whom are still irrigators, and smaller participants will be really important."
A number of well-known agricultural representatives will sit on the advisory group, including:
- Jenny McLeod, Coleambally Irrigation Cooperative Limited policy and communication manager
- Richard Anderson, Farmer and former Victorian Farmers Federation Water Council chairman
- Stuart Armitage, Farmer and former Queensland Farmers' Federation president
- Rosalie Auricht, Renmark Irrigation Trust general manager
- Phil Grahame, Ruralco Water general manager
- Dr Andrew Stoeckel, Centre for Regional Economic Development (in the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet) chief economist
- Dave Appels, Frontier Economics economist
- Dr Peter Hendy, Peter Hendy Consulting CEO
Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt said developing a reform roadmap was an important step in delivering water markets that operate more effectively and efficiently and don't burden users with unnecessary costs.
"We have been listening to communities in the Murray-Darling Basin who want practical solutions," Mr Pitt said.
"We owe it to all our basin communities and water users to get this right.
"I'm confident that the representatives from throughout the basin will enable us to deliver pragmatic and sensible reform that benefits everyone, not just a select few."
Mr Quinlivan said he had seen a high high level of commitment from governments to make real progress on water market reform.
"People understand water markets are very important to the Murray-Darling Basin economy and acknowledge the problems in the market arrangements," he said.
"They are keen to see as many feasible improvements as possible to those markets implemented over the next couple of years."
The group has been tasked with delivering draft recommendations to the minister in December.
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