Call for stronger water recovery rules

By Country News

A water leadership group is working on developing a list of tests that should be applied to water recovery steps to avoid negative impacts on northern Victorian communities.

The Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group met last week in Shepparton to discuss the prospect of further water recovery for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The Federal Government is widening the socio-economic neutrality test for recovering an extra 450Gl of water.

GMID Water Leadership Group co-chair David McKenzie said the group discussed major tests — which if applied, and the answer was in the negative — should strike out that project.

These included any recovery technique that would result in cost pressures on water prices, any technique that resulted in a transferral of costs in the supply chain, and any technique that created third party price impacts.

‘‘There are further tests which we believe should be applied to water recovery projects, and we will be articulating those after we have processed the outcomes of the meeting,’’ Mr McKenzie said.

He said the leadership group did not want to see any water recovery projects that were approached from a ‘‘lazy’’ perspective, which simply pulled water out of productive agricultural use.

Mr McKenzie said it was fantastic to see representatives from such a breadth of industries and organisations standing up for the region’s future.

‘‘We had a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the room and a lot of robust discussion about what socio-economic neutrality means for the GMID and that will put us in a very strong position when it comes to advocating for the needs of this region,’’ he said.

‘‘We have agreed on a way forward and the next step is to now flesh out the detail of our position and put that to basin governments for consideration.

‘‘With only three months left until a new test is due to be finalised, this is a time-sensitive exercise and we will be hoping to deliver our view of neutrality principles in the coming weeks.’’

GMID Water Leadership Group co-chair and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said the workshop was an important step in securing a strong future for the local irrigation industry under the Murray Darling-Basin Plan.

‘‘We brought together leaders from across the water, agriculture, environment and business industries to take a detailed look at the impact of further water recovery on our region and develop a united position on protecting our communities from further harm,’’ Ms Sheed said.

‘‘The Federal Government has said it will widen the socio-economic neutrality test for recovering an additional 450Gl of water from productive agriculture and we want to contribute to that discussion.

‘‘What came through most strongly was recognition that any socio-economic test must go beyond individual participation and consider the broader regional impact on communities.’’