Victoria has led the way in securing greater protections for irrigators and the environment at the Ministerial Council in Brisbane, with agreement to finally face water delivery risks in the Murray Darling Basin head on.
Basin States also acknowledged concerns around foreign ownership and monopoly behaviour in the water markets and agreed to ask the ACCC to look at whether changes to trading rules are required and consider registration of brokers across state borders.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville said the evidence presented today confirmed Victoria’s position that unless changes are made to the Basin Plan, neither communities or the environment will reap the expected benefits.
Victoria, NSW and South Australia will work together to collectively address the very real risk of deliverability shortfalls in the Basin in the lower Murray – starting with looking at water extraction policies.
Earlier this year Minister Neville announced she would be personally reviewing all new and increased extraction licence applications and NSW and South Australia will now look at establishing similar policies to ensure consistency across borders.
NSW and South Australia will work with Victoria to implement immediate precautionary measures to limit further extractions from the Murray River – protecting the rights of existing entitlement holders and reducing pressure on an already stressed system.
There was also acknowledgment around the table that there are serious issues with Constraints Measures Projects and a plan will now be developed to provide a more realistic timeframe, appropriate milestones and greater buy-in from local communities.
Concerns continued to be raised about proposed changes to long-standing water sharing rules – with most Basin States united in their refusal to support the Commonwealth’s push for a review into water sharing arrangements by the Inspector General.
All States support establishing the Office of the Inspector General to investigate compliance, but Ministers were clear they would not be handing State powers over to the Commonwealth.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“Our irrigators have had very real concerns about how the water we’ve worked so hard to deliver can realistically be moved throughout the Basin, without causing further damage to the environment or communities.”
“We need to make sure we do not turn our rivers into a superhighway for delivering water, which is why it’s so important we limit new extractions and come up with a better, community-led plan to move water past the constraints.”
“I’m also happy to see other states follow Victoria’s lead when it comes to increasing transparency in the water markets and proper investigation into overseas ownership and monopoly behaviour – so everyone can be reassured the market is working for, and not against, the irrigators who rely on it.”