The Darling River at low levels during the 2019 drought Photo TWH
There have so far been no takers for over $100 million worth of water licenses put on the market by some of the Bourke region’s biggest cotton growers.
According to national press reports, more than 30,000 megalitres of mostly B class water licences are up for sale in the Bourke area.
Handling the sale is agribusiness real estate agent CBRE, with a spokesperson saying the sale represents about 35 per cent of available B class entitlements on the river.
Smaller amounts of A and C class water entitlements are also up for sale.
The entitlements are apparently being offered by several cotton farming enterprises on the basis that the water entitlements might be returned to the Barwon-Darling river system.
Spokesman for Barwon-Darling Water Ian Cole said the sale may have been in part provoked by unfair criticism the cotton industry had endured during the drought.
“It seems everything that’s wrong with the world is the fault of the cotton industry,” Mr Cole said. “So this is an opportunity for anyone to come in and buy the water from the cotton farmers and put it back into the system.
“I think what people will find is that government and conservation groups will not be interested in buying those licenses,” he said.
“They all know that buying back these licences will not improve the river, but will have a devastating effect on any recovery for the farming sector around Bourke.
Mr Cole said comments that the sale was one way the industry could tell critics to ‘buy up or shut up’ were not far off the mark.
“The cotton industry has been blamed for taking too much water from the river but these licenses only allow for water entitlements to be taken when there are high water levels.
“The river is low because we are in a drought and you can blame that on the cotton industry.”
CBRE Agribusiness agents Danny Thomas, Richie Inglis and Col Medway have been appointed to sell the portfolio.
Read more in the printed edition of the Western Herald.