VFF to seek water commitments from new government

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Where is the water coming from? Nat Akers asked at the VFF forum.

The VFF will be seeking a meeting with the new Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek to outline concerns about how remaining water will be delivered under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The VFF submitted a five-point plan to the ALP prior to the election, urging them to scrap the 450 gigalitres of up-water, stop water buybacks, use flexibility in finding the 605Gl of offsets and to cease water recovery after the plan finishes in 2024.

The issues were submitted to the former Shadow Water Minister Terri Butler, who lost her seat at the election. The VFF said no response was received.

Water policy adviser Nat Akers told a VFF water seminar Aon June 2, the VFF would be seeking a commitment to no further water buybacks from farmers, because of the impact on the rural economy.

A VFF review of Murray-Darling Basin Authority surveys of rural communities found that about 5000 Victorian jobs had been lost in agriculture due to the transfer of water to the environment.

Ms Akers said this was about twice the number lost to NSW.

“Victoria has lost more jobs under the basin plan than any other state,” she said.

The VFF will seek a meeting with the new minister to seek an assurance that the socio-economic test attached to the 450Gl of up-water will remain.

The 450Gl for the environment was an addendum to the basin plan, but it must not inflict socio-economic damage to rural communities under the agreement reached by the states.

The VFF is also seeking flexibility in the 605Gl of offsets.

Under the basin plan, a variety of water saving projects is expected to generate savings but the VFF doesn’t believe the full amount is achievable.

With close to full water storages and the promise of average or above average rainfall in the short term, prices are likely to stay low for temporary water, the farmers at the VFF water seminar heard.

Source: Aither consultants.

Aither director Chris Olszak told the meeting that entitlement prices were at an all time high but allocation prices had collapsed due to the wet conditions.

He believed this season would be a good one for allocation prices and there was likely to be at least two good years ahead.

In terms of carryover strategy for the coming season, he suggested the Victorian Murray high-reliability water would be too risky, while in the Victorian Goulburn system it would be a reasonable gamble at very low allocation prices.

%PoE means probability of exceedance. Source: Northern Victoria resource manager.

Acting northern Victorian resource manager Andrew Shields pointed out that all northern Victorian irrigation systems had 100 per cent opening allocations for high-reliability water.

The Hume and Dartmouth storages were more than 90 per cent full and Eildon on the Goulburn River was holding 77 per cent of capacity, which was 20 per cent more than for the same time last year.

Storage inflows for the major storages were well above the average for July to April.