New measures to secure the long-term health of the Goulburn River and provide a level playing field for all water users in northern Victoria will come into effect in the next few weeks.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville confirmed an interim regulation for tagged water use will begin on 12 December this year – subject to final regulatory approval.
Once this happens, tagged trades will be subject to the same 200 gigalitre limit as all other trades – and once the limit is reached, water from tagged accounts will not be able to be moved from the Goulburn to the Murray.
Temporary exemptions will apply for entitlements grandfathered under the Basin Plan Trading Rules, Lower Broken Creek customers while the Goulburn to Murray Trade review is completed and several irrigators who had their sole water supply point for their Goulburn entitlements shifted to the Murray as part of the Connections Project.
Increased volumes of tagged trade above the limit from the Goulburn to the Murray has made managing river flows and delivering water for entitlement holders more difficult. In 2017-18 there was 120 gigalitres traded, compared to just 10 gigalitres in 2012-13.
Expert advice and community feedback are clear that unseasonably high flows on the lower Goulburn cause environmental damage – destroying vegetation, habitat and river banks.
The Andrews Labor Government has also instigated an interim operating regime that aims to limit the volume of traded water that can be delivered from the Goulburn to the Murray system to 50 gigalitres a month, significantly below the maximum deliveries of traded water between the systems over summer in recent years.
Goulburn-Murray Water and the Goulburn Broken CMA will work with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, as the operator of the river, to deliver these volumes in variable flows that further reduce the risks.
This regime will be in place between December and April – the key period of environmental risk for the lower Goulburn River when peak demand for irrigation water leads to high flows that can cause ecological damage.
This new approach ensures that Victoria meets its obligations to deliver traded water between the systems in a way that minimises the environmental risks to the Goulburn.
The Labor Government will remove the remaining permanent exemptions from trade rules, including for tagged entitlements “grandfathered” under Basin Plan Trading Rules.
Victoria will raise this issue at Ministerial Council and with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as part of its inquiry into water trading across the Murray Darling Basin.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“We’ve seen huge increases in the amount of water being traded between the Murray and Goulburn rivers in recent years, resulting in unseasonably high flows that damage the Goulburn River.”
“These changes will create an even playing field for Northern Victorian irrigators – ensuring there is fairness and consistency for all, while also reducing the risk of environmental damage.”