Farmers still waiting for Connections project water savings to become available

By Rodney Woods

The deadline for the release of the 75Gl of water savings to farmers from the Connections project seems to be unclear, if you ask either side of Victorian politics.

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said the farmers' share of the water savings could not be allocated until the project was complete, while Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan said the agreement made by Peter Walsh, when he was the water minister, meant the water should have been made available to farmers in June.

“Lisa Neville has been the minister for five years so she’s got no excuse for failing to meet the June 2019 deadline to return this desperately-needed water to our irrigators,” Ms Ryan said.

“Former water minister Peter Walsh secured the June 2019 deadline to ensure our irrigators could be confident that the 75Gl would be returned to them — in full.

“But now the minister’s wasting time blaming others when she should be getting on with making this water available to help relieve the pressure on our irrigators as a result of the drought.”

Ms Neville said she was looking for options to give water back to struggling farmers despite the agreements made by Peter Walsh during his time as the state's water minister.

“The timing on when the irrigators get their permanent share of water savings from the Connections project is based on deals made by the previous water minister with the Commonwealth,” she said.

“However, I have always said that I will make whatever water I can available to irrigators as soon as possible.

“We’re looking now at how we can fast-track water to irrigators, despite the contractual arrangements — which could be through interim water payments, ahead of the final audit process.

“There are different views on how this water should be delivered, which is why I set up a consultative committee to consider the options before making a final recommendation to me.”

In Country News on September 17, State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed called for the immediate release of the 75Gl, saying "I am reliably advised that 60Gl of that water has now been audited and that there is no reason to delay it being made available to all delivery shareholders in the GMID to assist them in the months ahead".