Call to follow Neville’s lead

By Country News

The VFF is calling on state ministers responsible for water to follow Victoria’s lead and introduce some controls on new developments requiring more irrigation water in the lower Murray.

The state water ministers will meet in Canberra next week and the VFF wants them to look at the review on new water licences in the lower Murray introduced by Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville.

A recent report by consultants Aither, commissioned by the Victorian Government, found the current irrigation demand for horticultural plantings in the southern Murray-Darling Basin was 1230Gl/year and will increase to 1400Gl when the plantings reach maturity. This is 55 per cent higher than recent estimates by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In response to this discrepancy, the Ministerial Council in December 2018 directed the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to produce new modelling to quantify the risks to the environment and irrigators of increased irrigation demand downstream of the Barmah Choke.

‘‘The new modelling and review of water trading rules must be an urgent priority for the MDBA,’’ VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said.

The VFF also wants to know what the states are doing about a CSIRO report by Professor Peter Gell, which found the Lower Lakes were historically often estuarine and not always freshwater.

Large volumes of water have been required by the MDBA to keep the Lower Lakes fresh.

Mr Anderson said the irrigators who had given up water used to freshen the lakes deserve to know what the states were doing about this research, and why South Australia was continuing to insist on the freshwater volumes required.

The VFF wants to see an outline by the Federal Government on how it will respond to the Productivity Commission report into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, released in January this year.

So far there has been no government response to the findings, which have called for greater transparency, issues with deliverability and constraints, delays in states developing water plans, community distrust and whether efficiency measures can be achieved.