Nats push for Big Buffalo

By Geoff Adams

The Victorian National Party wants an investigation into expanding Lake Buffalo into a larger dam, but the Victorian Government says "no".

The party also would like the inquiry to include a pipeline from Lake Buffalo to Lake Nillahcootie to improve water security for Broken system irrigators and to bypass the Barmah Choke.

Victorian National Party shadow water minister Steph Ryan said the expansion of Lake Buffalo and its possible connection via a pipeline to Lake Nillahcootie should be referred to the Federal Government’s new national water authority for investigation.

Ms Ryan is also calling on the Victorian Government to reverse its "panicked and unsupported ‘no dams’ policy''.

“The Victorian Government already owns the land required for Lake Buffalo’s expansion, with preliminary planning completed when the lake was first built in 1965.”

She said the expansion could be achieved through a tri-state agreement between Victoria, NSW and South Australia.

Asked whether the price tag (last reported to be about $600 million) made the project too expensive, Ms Ryan said the Commonwealth had billions of dollars on the table for water infrastructure and this project had obvious benefits.

“Substantial water savings could be made by expanding Lake Buffalo’s storage capacity and reducing reliance on Lake Victoria in south-west NSW, where 130 gigalitres of water evaporated last year alone,” Ms Ryan said.

“Those savings could provide greater security to entitlement holders in Victoria, southern NSW and South Australia.

“Investigation by the Commonwealth Government’s National Water Grid Authority would determine whether Lake Buffalo could be connected to Lake Nillahcootie to overcome the capacity constraints of the Barmah Choke.”

If water was piped to Lake Nillahcootie, the water would pass down the Broken River into the Goulburn which joins the Murray at Echuca, thus bypassing the Barmah Choke.

“This is a transformational opportunity for state governments and the Commonwealth to come together to investigate a project that could provide greater security for irrigators and reduce erosion of the banks of the Murray River through the Barmah Choke,” Ms Ryan said.

“Daniel Andrews needs to put aside his ideological and irrational opposition to building new dams and look at all options to secure water for farmers and the environment.”

Water Minister Lisa Neville said the dam expansion had been proposed and rejected before.

“Expanding Big Buffalo would not create any new water. It would simply take it from somewhere else — either from farmers who currently rely on it or from the environment.

“Every drop of water in the north is fully allocated. New dams in the north would simply reduce reliability for irrigators and increase prices. It would also require changes to the diversion limits under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which the Nationals agreed to,” Ms Neville said.