The Andrews Labor Government will re-emphasise its position that further water cannot be taken from Victoria’s food bowl at the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council in Canberra tommorow.
Victoria will offer a pathway to the Commonwealth and other states to develop off-farm projects that will contribute to delivering the 450 GL without impact on production and Victorian irrigators.
This will include some immediate off-farm projects that will achieve system savings that can be put back into the health of the Basin without impacting on communities.
This pathway is allowed for under the Basin Plan, which enables basin states to develop their own projects to contribute to the 450GL.
The Labor Government will ask the Commonwealth to agree not to undertake expressions of interest in Victoria, which would result in further on-farm water being taken out of the system at a great cost to taxpayers and to communities in the irrigation district.
Victoria will also be seeking assurances from the Commonwealth that the 605GL of environmental offset projects will not be held to ransom by linking them to the 450 GL.
The deal that saw the 605GL of offset projects approved by the Senate was not an agreement with the Basin States. The Ministerial Council is the appropriate place for these discussions, not deals between federal parties.
The Labor Government has also announced significant strengthening of its compliance regime, including an increase in the amount and range of penalties that can be issued, to discourage illegal water theft.
Victoria has a good compliance record, as acknowledged by the Murray Darling Basin Authority, but these changes will ensure the Labor Government continues to drive best practice. Amendments to the Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Bill 2017 will be introduced in coming weeks and will:
- Increase maximum penalty for intentional water theft to $950,000 for agricultural companies or $190,000 for individuals
- Enable water corporations to issue penalty infringement notices for less serious water offences.
The Bill delivers on the Labor Government’s plan, Water for Victoria, to modernise enforcement of the provisions of the Act and to further enshrine Aboriginal and recreational water values into water management.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“We’ll take off-farm projects to the table in Canberra that we can deliver — but we will not commit to on-farm works, which will just hurt Victorian communities.”
“Victorian communities and irrigators have already done much of the heavy lifting when it comes to water recovery, taking any more water away will hurt the entire region.”
“Our farmers overwhelmingly do the right thing — that’s why we’re strengthening legislation and introducing tougher penalties, better enforcement measures and new checks and balances to protect regional communities.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020