In a major win for Victorian farmers and irrigators, the Andrews Labor Government has secured assurances from the Commonwealth that no on-farm expressions of interest will be carried out in Victoria or New South Wales.
The agreement at today’s Ministerial Council meeting in Canberra will ensure that no water will be taken from Victorian or New South Wales irrigators or the state’s food bowl as a part of Victoria’s contribution towards delivering an additional 62GL, following the approval of 605GL of environmental offset projects.
Victoria’s preference has always been for infrastructure projects that save water through modernisation and efficiency, rather than programs that take water from farmers and agricultural production.
The Commonwealth agreed that no expressions of interest would be undertaken in Victoria or NSW for on-farm efficiencies and water recovery will only come from off-farm, industrial or urban water projects.
Victoria has always argued that taking any further water from irrigators in our major food bowl would cause significant social and economic harm, and that the current participation test as the measure of socio-economic harm was inadequate and did not reflect the real impact that water already taken from the system has had.
The Labor Government has negotiated an agreement that the Ministerial Council will develop criteria to assess socio-economic impact beyond that participation test.
In addition, the meeting agreed that Victoria and other states can use the basin plan provisions of section 7.17 (2) (b) (ii) that allow states to develop their own arrangements and projects that meet the socio-economic neutrality test. This will ensure expressions of interest on-farm do not occur.
At the meeting, Victoria agreed to finalise some off-farm projects that will contribute about 9GL towards the 62GL requirement.
These projects will identify system losses that could be fixed through infrastructure investment that could go back into the environment – achieving benefits for farmers, communities and the environment.
These projects will achieve system savings that can be put back into the health of the Basin without impacting on communities.
Victoria is also pleased that NSW and Queensland have taken measures to improve their compliance arrangements. Victoria has also announced a new penalties regime.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“We’ve secured some real wins for Victorian irrigators today, ensuring no further water can be taken from irrigators and farming communities as part of our contribution to the 62GL.”
“We’re standing up for Victorian irrigators to ensure no expressions of interest are carried out in Victoria for on-farm works, which will just hurt Victorian communities.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020