Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan is calling for water to be prioritised for food to help secure the nation’s food supplies.
As irrigators across northern Victoria continue to face ongoing low water allocations, Ms Ryan said governments must prioritise food over forests.
“Now, more than ever, our farmers need the resources at their disposal to do what they do best and that includes having enough water to grow fresh, clean food for the nation,” she said.
“Governments must explore putting environmental water back into the consumptive pool during times of low allocation to guarantee food supplies.
“The (Murray-Darling Basin) plan, along with the realities of climate change, is crippling industry in northern Victoria.
“Nothing short of bold reform can reverse this trend.”
Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville urged Ms Ryan to heap pressure on the the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to help out struggling farmers.
“Last year, we put an additional 10 Gl on the market after all environmental needs were met,” Ms Neville said.
“I have written to the Commonwealth on multiple occasions asking them to look at opportunities to release their environmental water to farmers.
“I encourage Ms Ryan to do the same.”
Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt said everyone needed to work together to manage the basin plan.
“It is crucial that Commonwealth and state authorities work co-operatively as joint stakeholders in the management of Murray-Darling Basin water,” he said.
“This is especially important at a time when we are experiencing declining inflows and a crippling drought.
“I will continue to work with all state governments to achieve the best possible outcomes for irrigators with the water available.”
One of those stakeholders Mr Pitt is working with is Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.
“States have every capacity to suspend or alter water sharing agreements, while the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is entirely restricted by legislation, in how it can use its assets,” Ms Ley said.
“I would like to see additional water for communities and as a local member acting on behalf of NSW irrigators, who face a zero allocation, I am working with the Water Minister Keith Pitt to look at all options.
“But reducing complex interstate water-sharing agreements to a war between the environment and farmers is just not accurate.”