The final report of the on-farm water program review supports the Andrews Labor Government’s opposition to funding further on-farm works as part of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville released the report today, which assessed the transfer of productive water from irrigation and concerns over negative impacts on Victorian farming and irrigation communities.
The review of the Victorian Farm Modernisation Project (VFMP) was conducted to address community concerns that the transfer of entitlement by irrigators under the Project was causing unintended negative impacts on communities.
The review found that it was not possible to fund further on-farm works to transfer water to the Commonwealth, without further social and economic impacts on irrigators and the broader community.
The project delivered around 17.4 gigalitres (GL) of water to the environment, on top of the 800GL of Victorian water already recovered under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
This includes the $2 billion Connections Project, which modernises the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District and will return 279GL of in water savings back to the environment. But while modernisation of farms is critical to future viability – where they involve transfer of water savings out of production, we see negative socio-economic outcomes.
At the last Ministerial Council, Victoria negotiated an agreement between all states and the Commonwealth that we would work on a socio-economic neutrality test (the criteria) to assess all projects (on and off farm) that could hypothetically contribute to the 450 GL above the Plan’s 2,750 GL target.
We also secured agreement from the Commonwealth that they would not seek further water recover from Victoria through on-farm projects. The Ministerial Council will discuss the criteria at their next meeting in December.
In addition, the Labor Government has drafted legislation to increase maximum penalty for intentional water theft and enable water corporations to issue penalty infringement notices for less serious water offences.
The strengthened penalties regime is a commitment under the Labor Government’s Water for Victoria plan which includes support irrigation communities to adjust to changes in water availability and climate.
The Labor Government will continue to work with stakeholders and communities to explore investments that deliver strong public benefit to Victoria. A copy of the review of the Victorian Farm Modernisation Project is available on to
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“This report backs our decision to discontinue on-farm programs that would hurt irrigators and regional communities.”
“Victoria is on track to meet its obligations under the Plan. Our irrigators are some of the most efficient in the world and we will continue to support innovation – but not in a way that impacts the whole community.”
“Further water recovery from irrigators in our food bowl will cause significant social and economic harm, this review highlights the concerns we have been hearing from our community, and that’s why we’re taking action.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020