The Irrigation Act 2009 provides a common set of laws and governance regime under which thirty-four irrigation trusts currently manage and operate shared infrastructure for irrigation or drainage purposes in South Australia. An irrigation trust is an entity that conducts business in primary production, and manages and operates shared infrastructure to deliver water or drain land for the benefit of its members.

In 2015, government was requested to address limitations under the Act that were hindering irrigation trusts from pursuing investment opportunities or restructuring their business. In particular, relevant provisions meant that an investor would be required to operate as an irrigation trust rather than under a business governance model determined by the investor.

The amendment will not require irrigation trusts to take any action and they can continue to operate as business as usual. The amendment will simply offer a greater level of flexibility for a trust to pursue investment opportunities or restructure its business model to operate as an entity other than a trust (e.g. as a corporation, association and co-operative) should it wish to do so. Any such change would be voluntarily initiated by resolution of a majority of members of a trust if the trust determined that structural business changes are desirable at a given point in time.

In all other respects, the current processes for trust dissolution and property disposal on dissolution remain unchanged. In particular, if a trust seeks to dissolve, an application to the Minister for Water and the River Murray is required and, if the Minister is satisfied that an appropriate application has been made, the Minister may then give effect to the dissolution and enable the assets and liabilities of a trust to pass to a new party. The Government provides a last resort “guarantee” so that, if it is not possible for the assets and liabilities to pass to a new party, these may revert to Government.

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