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  • Rikki Lambert

Foreign water ownership may be up but Chinese holdings down: Minister

Floodwaters at St George in the northern MD Basin, early 2020

The latest Productivity Commission report highlighted over 180 gigalitres more water moved into foreign-owned hands in the last reporting year, but federal water minister Keith Pitt has reassured Murray-Darling Basin communities China is not the beneficiary.

FlowNews24 reported on Friday that the level of foreign-owned water had almost hit 11 per cent, despite the report showing a strong distaste Australians in regional and metropolitan areas alike had for the situation.

In a statement to FlowNews24 on Thursday afternoon, Minister Pitt revealed that 40 per cent of the total increase in foreign-owned water were holdings in the Basin:

"74 gigalitres more water entitlements in the Murray-Darling Basin were held by entities with at least twenty per cent foreign ownership from 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020."

Minister Pitt said the latest Australian Taxation Office report does not provide a breakdown of entitlement ownership by individual organisations but, in aggregate, the Minister claims ownership of water entitlements by Chinese organisations fell from 756 GL in 2019, to 662 GL in 2020. In the last reporting year, that brought China’s share of ownership of water entitlements in Australia down from 1.9 per cent to 1.7 per cent.

On the Flow morning show, Wayne and Rikki discussed the latest figures and apparent disinterest from Australian politicians and media outlets:

The Minister pointed out that the reduction in Chinese marketshare places China on a par with the USA, and remaining below Canadian organisations - the largest foreign owner of water entitlements with 1.8 per cent.

The Queensland Nationals Minister sought to downplay the 180 gigalitre overall increase, placing it in percentage terms:

"The level of foreign ownership of water entitlements is closely monitored by Treasury through the Foreign Investment Review Board and has grown by only 0.4 percentage points (from 10.5% at June 30 2019 to 10.9% at June 2020).
"The Australian Government acknowledges community concerns about foreign ownership, however the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s report found no evidence of foreign ownership manipulation in its inquiry into Murray-Darling Basin water markets.
"The ACCC provided a very detailed and considered report on what is a complex issue, and the Government is establishing an expert panel to provide advice on the implementation of its recommendations.
"The Government continues to welcome foreign investment where it will support our national interest.


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