A Canadian Pension Fund could now be the Largest Owner of WATER in the MURRAY DARLING BASIN

Webster Limited operations in the Murrumbidgee

HOW wrong is this?

WOULD any other country allow an Australian Pension Fund to buy up a natural resource, and make money through speculatively exploiting a flawed process?

AND the list of bad reasons why this should not happen flows beyond this initial argument to expose the stupidity of the wholesale sell-off of AUSTRALIA as if the real owners of Australia’s natural resourcesthe PEOPLE of AUSTRALIA have no entitlements to see them remain in the country’s hands, SOVEREIGNTY does matter!

P.S. WE just heard the Canadian Pension Fund not only is the biggest water owner but they are also the owner of the massive almond orchards downstream!

More vertical integration … were they watching the Chinese doing it here for decades? So they have followed suit.

AUSTRALIA will soon be the higgest ‘bicycle park in the World’ with all its people left to bend over … put their heads in the sand, and their backsides exposed to park the bikes …

YES … CAAN has had to reduce it to this to spell it out!

WHAT a pack of weak short sighted opportunistic sycophants are our leaders and business community!



PSP Investments, a Canadian pension fund, could now be the largest owner of water in the Murray-Darling Basin


ABC Rural

By national rural reporter Clint Jasper

Updated 18 FEBRUARY 2020

Webster Limited operations in the Murrumbidgee
PSP Investments will hold just over 2 per cent of available water entitlements in the Murray-Darling Basin. (ABC News)

A Canadian Government-owned pension fund could become one of the largest private owners of water entitlements in the Murray-Darling Basin from today, owning roughly 2 per cent of all its available water rights.

Key points:

  • Tensions over water ownership and trading have been running high, especially in the southern Basin
  • A Canadian pension fund has been on a multi-billion dollar buying spree
  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is reviewing Australia’s water markets

Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) is the pension fund for the country’s armed forces, public servants, police and firefighters.

It has been on a multi-billion-dollar buying spree in Australia recently, spending a record amount for a WA dryland cropping operation and water rights in the lower Murray.

Now, through its wholly-owned subsidiaries PSP Bidco and Sooke Investments, it is the owner of Webster Limited, Australia’s fourth-oldest company.

The soon-to-be deregistered ASX-listed Webster Limited was already a significant owner of water entitlements, reporting 167,217 megalitres — one megalitre (ML) is 1 million litres — in its portfolio at September last year.

PSP’s previous investments in Australian agriculture means that now the deal is complete, the Canadian pension fund holds more than 200,000ML of water in the Murray-Darling Basin.

It will use this water to grow walnuts, almonds, cotton, and cereal crops, and is unlikely to ‘speculate’ on water because last year, despite the volume of water Webster owned, it still did not have enough for permanent crops and had to buy water on the expensive spot market.

Adding it up

A breakdown of Webster’s water portfolio provided to investors last year shows high security, general security, and supplementary water rights in the southern Murray-Darling Basin — the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers — totalling 133,790ML.

An aerial image of irrigation channels in paddocks
Webster Limited, now owned by Canada’s PSP Investments, holds significant quantities of water entitlements in the Murray-Darling Basin. (ABC News: Neil Maude)

But 81,288ML of water entitlements from those systems will be transferred to KoobaCo, which PSP will only have 49.9 per cent control of, while former Webster chairman Chris Corrigan and director David Fitzsimons will own the remaining stake.

A joint venture between PSP and the Robinson family holdings in the northern Basin, Bengerang, gives it control of around 20,000MLof water there, according to Marsden Jacobs Associates principal Simo Tervonen.

Add the 89,085ML of lower Murray entitlements PSP purchased from Singaporean-based Olam at the end of last year and the total amount of water in the southern Basin owned by PSP grows to about 202,231ML.

“Assuming PSP will have control of water rights in excess of 200,000ML, it would definitely be one of the largest private water owners in the MDB, if not the largest,” Mr Tervonen said.

This year, with general security licences in NSW at zero per cent, Webster told shareholders it had to enter the temporary market to buy enough water to keep its permanent plantations of walnut and almond trees watered.

How much water is that?

According to Mr Tervonen, there were approximately 14,800 gigalitres (GL) — or 14.8 million megalitres — of surface water entitlements on issue across all catchments and entitlement classes in the Murray-Darling Basin.

What is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan again?

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan has remained controversial ever since its introduction back in 2012. So, what is it again and why is it back on the agenda?

Commonwealth and state governments, the largest owners of water in the Basin, hold 21 per cent of surface water entitlements for environmental purposes, leaving 11,700GL for other water licence holders.

Analysis by Marson Jacobs Associates suggested that once groundwater entitlements and conveyance water were removed from the equation, the pool of water available for irrigators was approximately 8,880GL, or 8.88 million megalitres.

“Let’s say a party owns 200,000ML of that pool — that would represent 1.7 per cent of all the consumptive pool,” Mr Tervonen said.

“If we ditch unregulated and conveyance water, 200,000ML [assuming it’s all regulated water] is 2.3 per cent of the consumptive surface water pool.”

Municipal water corporations, as well as irrigation infrastructure operators, are also among the largest holders of water entitlements.

Properties like Cubbie Station have significant water licences, but Mr Tervonen said because they were unsupplemented or overland flow licences, they were very different to licences in other states.

“So basically, on comparable terms, Cubbie’s holdings are only 93,000ML,” he said.

“The ATO foreign ownership register is also based on the nominal volume of the entitlement, not entitlement characteristics such as the volumetric limit.”

Outside the Basin, mining companies like Chichester Metals own around 450GL of water entitlements, and Pilbara Iron owns more then 210GL.

Foreign-owned water

Last year, the Federal Government released the first Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Entitlements revealing that across the country — including all industries, in all states and territories — about 10 per cent of Australia’s water entitlements were foreign owned.

Corporate Farming: Big business investment in agriculture


Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.

WATCH8m 54sCorporate Farming: Big business investment in agriculture ( Landline )

The figure in the Murray-Darling Basin was 9.4 per cent and includes groundwater entitlements, with 21.9 per cent of the northern Basin entitlements foreign owned and 5.5 per cent of southern Basin entitlements held by foreign interests.

Non-resident individuals, foreign companies, state-owned enterprises, and any company in which a foreign entity owns 20 per cent or more are considered to be ‘foreign’ under Australian law.

China holds top place with 732GL, with the US (720GL) and the UK (411GL) holding second and third place.

Canada was fourth with 212GL, but PSP’s recent acquisitions could nearly double Canada’s stake in Australian water entitlements.

The ABC spoke with two other people connected to Murray-Darling Basin water markets, and each agreed the ownership of a further 202GL would make the owner one of, if not the largest owner of water in the Basin.

Water ownership debate

Tensions over water ownership and trading have been running high, especially in the southern Basin, this summer.

A woman in a blue shirt holding a hat standing in front of some sheep.
New South Wales SFF MP Helen Dalton wants a national register of water ownership in Australia. (Supplied)

NSW state Shooters Fishers Farmers MP Helen Dalton has been lobbying hard to introduce laws that would force corporate water owners and any politician who owns water entitlements to publicly declare what they own.

Ms Dalton has declared she owns 1,383ML of high-security water and 3,324 ML of general security water in the Murrumbidgee valley.

Following an 11,000-signature-strong petition submitted to the NSW parliament by Ms Dalton, state politicians will debate the merit of establishing a national water ownership register on February 27.

A map of the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia.
A map of the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia. (ABC News: Ben Spraggon)

Former water minister David Littleproud told ABC Rural recently “I think this water market has evolved into something that has gone far beyond what it was first intended to do”.

In information about the PSP deal released to investors and the ASX under the heading “Risks”, Webster said its share price was influenced by “reputational risks, particularly in connection with the water industry”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is currently undertaking a review of Australia’s water markets.

Webster Limited and PSP Investments were asked to comment on this story, but by the time of publishing neither had responded.

Related articles


  1. What is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan again?
  2. Plenty of reasons to be angry at the Murray-Darling plan, but canning it solves none of them
  3. ‘No water here’: Controversial cotton farm Cubbie Station opens gates to Murray-Darling councillors
  4. Water market set for shake-up as ACCC ordered to investigate if trade is fair
  5. Drought and climate change drive high water prices in the Murray-Darling Basin
  6. Confused by the Murray Darling controversy? Here’s your simple guide
  7. How taxpayers are funding a huge corporate expansion in the Murray-Darling
  8. Water Minister wastes no time to deliver on water trade inquiry
  9. China and US are the biggest investors in Australian water entitlements
  10. Billions of litres of water ‘missing’ from Murray-Darling Basin, study claims
  11. The cotton grower, the water minister and the broken meter
  12. ‘People have to be named’: Scientists say broken Murray-Darling system can be fixed
  13. Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission slams authority for ‘maladministration’
  14. Murray-Darling report lays bare that ‘the system is sick’, say the people it affects
  15. What will the Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission reveal?
  16. Productivity Commission calls out governance failings in Murray-Darling Basin Plan roll-out
  17. Murray-Darling royal commission won’t cross-examine federal bureaucrats
  18. Cotton farm execs face court over $20m federal funding ‘fraud’
  19. How the iconic sites of the Murray-Darling Basin are doing under the plan
  20. Watch Pumped: Who is benefitting from the Murray-Darling?
  21. Federal Government and Labor strike deal on future of Murray-Darling Basin Plan
  22. Advisory group pens unprecedented letter to try save Murray-Darling Basin Plan
  23. How to kill a river system three times as salty as the sea
  24. Major Murray-Darling Basin water-saving plan questioned

SOURCE: https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-02-18/canadian-pension-funds-aussie-farm-buying-spree/11950312#lightbox-share-11966504



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