The Andrews Labor Government is taking action to secure the long-term health of the Goulburn River and provide a level playing field for all water users in northern Victoria.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville announced a review of the inter-valley trade (IVT) rules for the Goulburn River in May this year following concerns about the environmental impact of prolonged high volumes of water.
The last two years have seen very high deliveries from the Goulburn IVT account to the Murray system due to drought conditions in NSW coupled with strong trade demands in the Murray system over summer. Prior to 2013-14 deliveries averaged about 60 GL but jumped to 320 GL in 2017-18 and 433 GL in 2018-19.
Ongoing monitoring and advice from a scientific expert panel has confirmed that prolonged high unseasonal flows are causing the damage to the river banks, loss of vegetation and a reduction in habitat for native fish.
The initial review has identified that the current rules are not protecting the environment of the lower Goulburn River and do not provide a level playing field for all water users to trade water.
In particular, tagged water moving from the Goulburn to the Murray outside the limits of the IVT trade rules, has increased from less than 10 GL in 2012-13 to 120 GL in 2017-18. Various stakeholders, including the VFF, have asked for changes to tagged accounts to make sure that the same rules apply to all.
As a result, the Minister has announced three key actions to reduce the risk to the lower Goulburn environment this year and get the market settings right for Goulburn to Murray trade for the future.
- An interim operational regime that achieves variable summer flows in the Goulburn well below recent volumes, to be implemented before the high-risk period begins this summer.
- Ensuring that from December all trades from the Goulburn system, including water use from tagged accounts, will be treated consistently with Victorian rules for inter-valley trade and in line with Basin Plan trading rules.
- The start of public consultation in January next year about long-term options to change the current Goulburn to Murray trade rule to maximise trade opportunities within environmental thresholds.
These changes deliver on the Government’s commitment outlined in Water for Victoria (2016) to improve northern Victoria trading rules and builds on its recent action to manage lower Murray extractions.
It also builds on the outcomes Victoria secured at the Ministerial Council for an independent panel to review the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s modelling on delivery of water through the connected southern Basin system, as well as the Government’s new review process for works licences to extract water in the lower Murray region.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“Announcing these changes before the season starts enables people to make early decisions on when they move water – striking the right balance with community consultation and protecting the health of the Goulburn River before this summer.”
“We want a sensible approach to managing this issue that gets water to users who need it, but not at the expense of the lower Goulburn River environment.”