States come up with water safeguards

By Country News

The Victorian and NSW governments have come up with guidelines designed to protect irrigators and rural communities from negative effects of water recovery for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The guidelines are designed to avoid price increases for irrigation water, protect communities from job losses, and will require support from the rural communities.

The Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Group, which has grown impatient waiting for the Federal Government to develop guidelines, produced its own set of points which were released on October 12.

Group co-chair and State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said it was disappointing regional communities were forced to do the work of government to demonstrate the harsh reality on the ground.

The state governments are seeking feedback on the guidelines.

The socio-economic criteria come after the local group released its own set of guidelines to be applied to water recovery proposals.

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said they were making sure any projects that sought to take further water from irrigated communities had a clear and transparent set of criteria to make sure they did not negatively impact on Victorians.

‘‘Victorian irrigators have already done much of the heavy lifting when it comes to water recovery and we will not allow new projects to impact our regional communities, jobs and families they support,’’ she said.

But Environment Victoria’s Juliet le Feuvre said the criteria had a continued narrow focus which ignored the community benefits of getting more water back into the rivers.

‘‘I think the criteria came out in a bit of a rush before the government goes into caretaker mode ahead of the election,’’ Ms Neville said.

‘‘By no means are these agreed upon.’’

She said EV would like to see criteria additions looking at the benefit to the environment.

The Victorian and NSW criteria propose that any water recovery project:

■Identifies potential impacts on the district and explains any benefits.

■Does not directly increase the price of water.

■Contributes to the current and future financial viability of irrigation districts.

■Supports regional economies by not impacting on irrigation jobs now and in the future.

■Does not have negative third-party impacts on the irrigation system, water market or communities.

■Is supported by the community.

■Identifies and improves social and environmental outcomes and does not negatively impact them.

■Identifies, protects and improves indigenous values.

■To comment on the criteria, go to: water.vic.gov.au