A Goulburn Valley water group has run out of patience with the Murray-Darling Basin governments and has developed its own tests that can be applied to water recovery projects which will protect agriculture.
The last Ministerial Council meeting on the basin plan promised a policy on the tests, but after waiting for four months, the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group has developed its own four points.
Basin governments have agreed that water recovery for the final 450Gl sought for the environment should not have a negative socio-economic impact — but there has been considerable debate about how this impact can be defined.
Water group co-chair Suzanna Sheed said the governments promised no more water recovery if it caused more hardship, but river communities were still waiting to see the more robust impact test they promised.
The group met on September 17 to hammer out a series of questions or tests.
‘‘In the absence of the Commonwealth not producing anything and our anxiety about bureaucrats doing the work and communities not having any say, we engaged consultants to run the workshop,’’ Ms Sheed said.
‘‘We’ve worked hard in trying to bring together into a small, manageable document what we say the main issues are and what the tests should be.’’
Ms Sheed and group co-chair David McKenzie were critical that the Federal Government had sought expressions of interest for off-farm water recovery projects in South Australia and Queensland without there being any test.
‘‘We say the tests should apply to all these recoveries,’’ Ms Sheed said.
Asked whether the basin governments might simply ignore the Goulburn Valley document, Ms Sheed said:
‘‘I think regional communities are sick and tired of bureaucrats in Canberra deciding major issues that affect our communities without proper consultation.
‘‘We want the government to take this up.
‘‘It is disappointing that a group like ours has to find the money and resources to do the work that you would expect the government to do.’’
The group will take the tests to the Federal and Victorian governments.
The questions are:
■Will this recover more water from the consumptive pool?
■Will this increase water prices or create other distortions in water markets?
■Will individual projects collectively result in adverse third party impacts on other water users, enterprises and the broader community?
■Will individual projects collectively result in adverse third part impacts by transferring costs to the irrigated production supply chain?
The group believes that if the answer to any of these questions is ‘yes’, then the project will have failed and must be struck out.
The office of Federal Water Minister David Littleproud was not available to answer questions about the new test last Friday.