Report delay a ‘critical’ problem

December 06, 2017

Steph Ryan and Michael Gaffy at his Mooroopna farm.

Victorian Water Shadow Minister Steph Ryan has taken aim at the state government over plans to delay a long-term water resource assessment, slated to begin next year, until 2026.

The assessment, which monitors Victoria’s water resources to provide information regarding the availability of water within the region, was set to begin in 2018 and be completed in 2019, with a report to take place every 15 years.

Earlier this month, the Andrews Government introduced a bill to parliament which stated the government felt it was too soon to start the study next year and instead wished to delay it so that it could be completed in mid-2026.

‘‘It would be premature to commence the long-term water resource assessment for northern Victoria, while we implement commitments under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to return water to the environment, until the basin plan is reviewed in 2026,’’ the bill said.

‘‘The significant rebalancing of water rights that has already occurred as part of implementing the basin plan and the state-initiated programs ... the bill will require the long-term water resource assessment for northern Victoria to commence by February 1, 2025, so it can be completed 18 months later in mid-2016.’’

The start date for the southern Victoria assessment has remained unchanged at August 3, 2018.

Speaking in Mooroopna last week, Ms Ryan said the decision was simply ‘‘kicking the can down the road’’.

‘‘It doesn’t make any sense to delay because it means we’ll be working to out-of-date data over the next seven years as we try to fight for a fairer deal for communities in the implementation of the basin plan,’’ she said.

‘‘This is a critical piece of information.

‘‘I’ve had conversations with landholders who have raised concerns with me that the MDBA (Murray-Darling Basin Authority) are working to out-of-date information.’’

Accusing Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville of ‘‘sticking her head in the sand’’, Ms Ryan said the review was key to ensuring a fair deal for communities.

‘‘We need to stop and take stock of what our water resources are so we can present firm evidence to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority,’’ Ms Ryan said.

Mooroopna farmer Michael Gaffy, who maintains a 141ha farm producing lucerne, hay and rye-grass, agreed and said he was frustrated the government was too city-centric.

‘‘I think the state government has lost focus on the importance of irrigation and if they’re going to ignore this and wait until the basin plan is finalised, they’ll be working with information that is out of date,’’ Mr Gaffy said.

‘‘Without water this country isn’t very productive.’’

—Alana Christensen

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