More water for northern Victorian irrigators

By Rodney Woods

Northern Victorian irrigators now have access to 37 Gl of water owned by Melbourne’s metropolitan water retailers who are in the water market.

Currently, the Melbourne retail water corporations receive a share of actual water savings achieved by the Connections project in the previous year.

The share is dependent on the volumes of water delivered through the system in that year.

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said she asked for the audit process for Connections water savings to be fast-tracked to ensure irrigators had access to this vital water as soon as possible.

Ms Neville also wrote to the Victorian and Commonwealth Environmental Water Holders, asking them to explore any opportunities to trade environmental water holdings into the market.

Last season, the VEWH sold 10 000 megalitres of allocation in northern Victoria, which provided an opportunity for irrigators completing autumn watering to secure more water or choose to carry-over into the new season.

“Ever since I’ve been minister I’ve made it my mission to ensure as much water as possible is available to northern irrigators — and in this instance I asked for the Connections (project) water to be fast-tracked to help out those doing it tough in these dry conditions,” Ms Neville said.

“We’ve acted as quickly as we could in order to make as much water as possible available to irrigators — and I’ll continue to stand up for our irrigators facing tough conditions.

“I hope this additional water on the market will help ease pressure on prices, which are severely impacting those exposed to the temporary market.”

Tongala irrigator Peter Hacon could not understand why the government had marketed the release of water to northern Victorian irrigators exclusively.

“I'm not sure how it's going to affect northern Victorian farmers (exclusively) because it’s an open market,” Mr Hacon said.

“It's a beat up. If you put water on the market it's not just open to northern Victorian irrigators, it's open to NSW and South Australia or speculators who can carry it over until the inter-valley trade opens.

“If they fast-tracked the irrigator share, that would exclusively benefit northern Victoria.”

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said the more water farmers had for irrigating the better off they would be.

“The more water we can get into the market in the next few months the better because the way it’s going farmers will be needing it with the hot weather (forecast),” Ms Sheed said.

Despite Ms Neville saying she fast-tracked the audit process, Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan said the announcement should have come earlier.

“I'm glad the minister has finally got around to it,” Ms Ryan said.

“It should have come earlier in the year when it made more of a difference.

“I don’t why it took her until December but it's something we've been calling for, for months.

“It was clear that Melbourne wouldn’t have needed it so there was no reason why it couldn’t be traded back on the market when farmers are paying prices of more than $1000/Ml.

“I don’t think it's going to have a massive impact on prices.

“It would have had more of an impact earlier in the season in terms of what it could be used for but in this environment every drop matters.”