Murray-Darling Association region chairman and Leeton mayor Paul Maytom believes the future of the area is being threatened by what he says is a corrupt water trading system.
Councillor Maytom believes MIA communities are under threat with huge amounts of water being sold out of the area. He said he wants to make it clear he doesn't blame farmers for selling their water, but said the system needs to change and some sort of cap needs to be imposed.
Since July, around 40 gigalitres of water has been sold from this area. Cr Maytom believes the state and federal governments need to step in and overhaul water trading regulations, renewable energy policies, land use planning policies and even right-to-farm policies.
"Let me be clear... losing 40 gigalitres of water out of the MIA (since July) to new greenfield nut farms downstream is not okay," Cr Maytom said.
Let me be clear... losing 40 gigalitres of water out of the MIA (since July) to new greenfield nut farms downstream is not okay,Paul Maytom
"Having commodity speculators with no interest in farming manipulates our water market. It is not okay when farmers find it more attractive to sell their water than to plant a crop."
Member for Farrer Sussan Ley would like to see the water trading market become more transparent, speaking on the issue following several calls for both the state and federal government to address the system.
"Particularly inter-valley trades that open one day and close the next," Ms Ley said.
"I'm not suggesting anyone is operating outside of the rules, however the rules may well need to be changed. With sensible changes to water trading rules, I believe we can bring down the price of temporary water. That is so important for our region."
Member for Murray Helen Dalton agrees with Cr Maytom's notion, angered those buying up big chunks of water don't need to prove they have any link to farming and has called on residents to sign the Speak Up 4 Water campaign's petition for a royal commission and a national water register to be established.
With the MIA purpose-built to grow crops and feed the nation, Cr Maytom said the time now was for the government to act.
"Our system does not function on the basis that all water should go to the highest value crop, so public policy that drives this is fundamentally flawed," he said.
Let's not depend on government to run every single part of our lives. Lets get some morals about us, and lets individually stop selling water out of the area. It is such an important issue, and somebody has to stand upJohn Bonetti
"If Australia is genuinely committed to making every drop of irrigation water count, government policy needs to support the MIA and formed irrigation areas like ours to stay resilient in good water years and bad."
The ACCC is conducting an inquiry into the water market, consulting with a range of water market participants and stakeholders involved in water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin. The ACCC is expected to present an interim report on this matter by May 31, with the full report expected November next year.
"I'm really looking forward to the outcome of the ACCC investigation into the southern water market, specifically our area," Ms Ley said.
The MIA have welcomed the news the National Party have chosen to reject further water recovery of productive water.
The RiceGrowers Association (RGA) said their number one priority was to "avoid further productive water recovery", and see this move as the Nationals "finally acknowledging" the extent socio-economic impacts.
Member for Murray Helen Dalton has credited "people power", saying it was "no coincidence" the Nationals voted to re-look at their plan in the aftermath of a rally in Tocumwal.
At the annual federal council on the weekend, the Nationals held discussions relating to water and the Murray Darling Basin Plan was the hot topic.
Water Resources minister David Littleproud has remained committed to the plan, adamant there would be no deviations, however it's clear this is not a universal position in the party.
State Nationals leader John Barilaro has previously called the plan "untenable" for the region after the Ministerial Council meeting in August. Mr Littleproud was challenged successfully by Victorian deputy leader Steph Ryan on the weekend, adding to party discontent.
"Littleproud voted against his party's motion on Saturday. He lost. He is a minority voice among the general public and within his own party," Mrs Dalton said.
She said a petition for a Royal Commission into water by the community group "Speak Up 4 Water" needs 10,000 before she'll take it to parliament, with a 1000 gathered at the rally.
Blank petitions can be picked up from the offices of Ms Dalton.
System legal, but not 'morally correct'
"Absolutely excellent, it should have been done ten years ago."
Rice grower John Bonetti says the decision from the Nationals was one of the best he has seen in years.
"For a guy who has not sold one megalitre, never participated in any scheme that takes water out of the area and has continually argued against water going out of the area, this is absolutely excellent," Mr Bonetti said.
But unlike Cr Maytom and Helen Dalton, he says water holders need to take control over their water and stop relying on governments to "make decisions for us", in light of calls to overhaul the water trading system.
"It is quite legal to do what they are doing, but its absolutely disgraceful.
"With the increase in capital gain, there are lots of different ways to attack this problem before you sell water.
"Let's not depend on government to run every single part of our lives. Lets get some morals about us, and lets individually stop selling water out of the area. It is such an important issue, and somebody has to stand up."
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