Opinion

Pledge to review water charges

By Country News

Over the past decade, the way we use and think about water in Victoria has fundamentally changed.

The millennium drought, unbundling of water rights and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan have irrevocably changed the structure of our water market.

I have announced an elected Liberal Nationals government in Victoria will review rural water charges to make sure they are fair and equitable.

Getting the balance right is vital to the future of northern Victoria’s irrigation communities.

Victoria’s water market has undergone a significant change since Labor’s decision to unbundle water rights in 2007.

It fuelled the rapid development and growth of water trading which has significantly influenced how, when and where customers use water.

Change since the basin plan was introduced is also yet to be addressed.

Irrigators have worn enormous pain as a result of the basin plan.

Northern Victorian communities have done much of the heavy lifting to return water to the environment.

It means there’s now a smaller pool of rural water users who are paying to maintain infrastructure in our irrigation districts.

The decision to separate the ownership of water from land has led to significant concern that delivery shares are acting as a handbrake in our regional communities that have lost water.

Some also believe that current storage costs unfairly favour traders, bulk entitlement and environmental water holders, over irrigators.

A rural water charges review would address these issues, to make sure the distribution of water charges is fair and equitable.

An elected Liberal Nationals government will review the charges of northern Victoria’s rural water authorities, examining water storage charges, and fixed and variable delivery charges.

It will also review delivery share distribution and the composition of infrastructure access fees.

Irrigators have been calling for action for several years, but the Andrews Labor Government has been slow to act.

Nearly 18 months since the Andrews Government announced a review of delivery shares as part of its ‘Water for Victoria’ plan in October 2016, it is silent on the progress of this review or if it has even started.

The Liberal Nationals will make sure our irrigators and rural water businesses in northern Victoria can have their voices heard.

Water bills are one of the most significant expenses for northern Victorian irrigators, but there’s concern at a lack of transparency in exactly what they are being charged for.

The Liberal Nationals have listened to these concerns.

Our rural water charges review will make sure the storage and distribution charges being applied by Victoria’s rural water authorities are fair and equitable for all.

—Steph Ryan

Victorian Nationals deputy leader and State Member

for Euroa