A trickle of hope for house prices in the Murray-Darling Basin

A trickle of hope for house prices in the Murray-Darling Basin

Posted on Thursday, March 22 2012 at 3:58 PM

First there were fights over water, now it seems environmental groups are clashing with politicians over house prices in the Murray-Darling Basin. The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) claims the tide is finally turning for property investors and owners across the Murray-Darling Basin, with the selling prices of houses in 90 local shires linked to the river’s health.

ACF economic adviser Simon O’Connor says houses in all parts of the Basin increased in value between 2006 and 2010, but house prices performed the strongest where the river is in good health.

“Some opponents of a strong Murray-Darling Basin Plan have tried to suggest that returning more water to the environment would damage house prices in the Basin, but our study, using a more detailed set of data, tells a different story,” he says.

“There is in fact a strong correlation between healthy rivers and healthy house prices.”

The ACF study used Australian Bureau of Statistics house price data from 90 councils and shires in the Basin and matched this information against the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Sustainable Rivers Audit, which rated the ecological health of the Basin’s 23 major river valleys on a scale of extremely poor to good health.

However, Senator Barnaby Joyce has slammed ACF’s findings as “incomplete”.

“The ACF has released data from 2006 to 2010 even though this whole process only started going pear shaped when the Labor Government released the flawed Guide to the Murray-Darling in late 2010,” he says.

The Age reported earlier this year that house prices in 14 irrigation towns had experienced average falls in house prices of 4.2 per cent since the guide was released. This is a much more relevant and up-to-date dataset.

“The ACF even tries to claim that house price falls in the Basin aren’t that bad, because house prices have fallen by more in Brisbane over the past year. I’m not sure if they’ve turned on the TV for a while, but the city’s biggest flood in 30 years may just have had something to do with that. 

“House prices should naturally increase with the development of an irrigation economy over time. People buy houses with money, not with frogs.”

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