MP explains why he voted against new water bill
COFFS Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh says he will continue to fight for an open and transparent water market but will never compromise the privacy of "mum and dad farmers" to achieve it.
He was responding to questions about his vote in NSW Parliament to reject a recent water management amendment bill.
The Water Management Amendment (Water Rights Transparency) Bill 2020 (No 2) was put forward by Shooters and Fishers and Farmers MP Helen Dalton.
Mr Singh says it was defeated 44 to 37.
"Everyone in government voted against it.
"The bill went too far in certain respects and not far enough in others."
The Member for Murray said she was shocked, when elected to parliament, to learn she
didn't have to declare water entitlements in the conflict of interest form MPs sign.
"We have to declare land, property, jobs and shares. But not water," Ms Dalton said.
"I believe the first step in fixing our water problems is to find out who owns it."
But Mr Singh says publicly available registers already exist that contain information relating to water licences, approvals, water trades, water dealings, allocations and up to date water information.
He provided the following links to such registers:
He was concerned that the type of register being suggested by Ms Dalton could lead to breaches of privacy and create a situation similar to the Aussie Farms map and associated protests.
"The NSW Nationals support increasing transparency in the water market, but not in a way that creates an 'Aussie Farms 2.0'."
He says Ms Dalton's bill fell short because it did not tackle the issue of water trading.
"Our bill says Members of Parliament need to disclose the water they trade.
"At the moment you disclose what you own, but not what you trade."
My Singh says The Nationals' bill, known as the Constitution Amendment (Water Accountability and Transparency) Bill 2020, will be voted on when NSW parliament resumes in coming weeks.
He has also stressed that water is not traded on the North Coast and the matter should not be confused with plans to sell water from the Woolgoolga dam to berry growers.
"It's completely separate, that's a licensing issue not a trading issue.
"It is traded to the west of the dividing range but not here in Coffs."