Water issues for the Goulburn Valley were hammered home to last week’s meeting of the Victorian Shadow Cabinet.
Committee for Greater Shepparton chair Rob Priestly said, ‘‘that’s the be-all and end-all,’’ after presenting to the MPs last Monday.
It follows the release of a report last year that found the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District was staring down the barrel of thousands of job losses and millions of dollars in lost economic output each year, and identified five key policy changes needed to reverse the trend.
‘‘The politics of it are complicated at a federal level and they need to understand it deeply and technically so they advocate well for Victoria,’’ Mr Priestly said.
He said consequences would be long-lasting, not just for this region but for the state.
‘‘It will be a bit of a sleeper if they get it wrong.
‘‘But when the next drought comes along, if the 450Gl of up-water were to go, then the consequences are massive.’’
While Mr Priestly believed the importance of the matter was well known, he said there was a need to ensure there was a deep understanding of the issues and good quality policy engagement with local leaders.
‘‘It’s really about the next key crucial negotiation federally, (and) that our state represents our interests properly.’’
Mr Priestly said the consultation was about ensuring when the election cycle arrived next year, those seeking election were flagging proposals aligned with the community’s wants.
He said issues around water security had hidden the positive performance of areas of the economy.
‘‘The property boom can’t go on in Melbourne forever, and when that finishes, exports in the long term are the key drivers of wealth and many of Victoria’s exporters are regionally based.
‘‘So yes, there’s pressure for infrastructure in Melbourne but some investment in regional Victoria now will pay back spades when the shake-out occurs.
‘‘It’s exporters they’re going to need then because they are going to be the thing that holds the economy up.’’
City of Greater Shepparton Mayor Dinny Adem echoed this message, agreeing water remained the number one issue that underpinned every aspiration of the region.