Sheed accuses states of water misbehaviour

By Geoff Adams

The Federal Government and South Australia were in breach of an agreement over water efficiency projects, State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believes.

Last week she questioned the Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville over the agreement, which was reached in 2018 between the states and Federal Government.

Ms Neville agreed with the concerns and also said she believed the other governments were breaking the law.

“At the ministerial council meeting of water ministers in December 2018 a much-lauded agreement was reached by ministers establishing the basis upon which the additional 450 gigalitres of up-water would be achieved,” Ms Neville said.

“The agreement was that there would be no negative impacts on our rural communities,” Ms Sheed said.

She said it had become apparent the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment had continued to seek expressions of interest to carry out on-farm projects primarily in South Australia and without regard to the terms of the agreement.

Speaking in parliament, Ms Neville said she would be taking the matter to her state and federal counterparts.

“I am absolutely aware of the proposals, particularly from South Australia, that are absolutely in breach of the agreement that was reached in 2018,” she said.

“In my view they are in breach of the law.

“The agreement is actually very clear: you cannot deliver this water if it has a negative impact, and we know that that sort of water recovery, those sorts of projects, will continue to have a negative impact.”

Ms Neville went on to criticise the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

“I have raised this issue with the federal minister, both in writing and verbally, and I will continue to do that,” she said.

“It is my view that the federal department is out of step with the federal minister on this and that the federal department continues to run their own agenda.”

In light of the recent federal ministerial reshuffle, Ms Sheed called on the new Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt to bring his bureaucrats and South Australian counterparts into line.

“What’s the point of even having a set of rules, of a Murray Darling Basin Plan, of a Federal Water Act, if the only ones who play by the rules are the ones who lose out?,” Ms Sheed said.

“Victoria is once again losing out because we obey the law while others flout it.

“It is the responsibility of the Victorian Government to police the terms of that 2018 agreement and demand compliance from the other parties.”

Ms Neville said she had tried to ensure there was no more water recovery from the southern basin that would have a negative socio-economic impact.

Ms Sheed also raised the issue of damage to the rivers being caused by the transfer of water for downstream developments.

Ms Neville said her government was seeking assessment on the potential damage.

“I would say again, just to put on record, my disappointment with the (MDBA) authority, which is continuing to put high flows down the Goulburn despite what we have said to them. They need to lift their game,” she said.