Victoria is seeking further action and support for initiatives to protect both the environment and water security for local communities, at the upcoming Murray Darling Basin ministerial council meeting.
Victoria is on track to deliver its obligations under the Basin Plan, but Minister for Water Lisa Neville will raise a number of issues for discussion today around accountability, transparency and deliverability.
Victoria will also discuss the issue of high demand for water and resulting high flow volumes, which are causing environmental damage to Goulburn waterways and risking deliverability shortfalls downstream of the Barmah Choke.
In December 2018, the Ministerial Council agreed on a Victorian motion that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority do extra work on deliverability, constraints and impacts of higher flows. Victoria will be seeking guarantees that this work is happening and will be delivered.
Victoria has led the way in protecting water entitlement holders and the environment, with Minister Neville to personally assess any works license applications in the lower Murray region for the next 12 months – and we encourage other states to make similar changes to address deliverability issues below the choke.
Other key priorities for Victoria are the protection of environmental flows and addressing compliance issues in the Northern Basin, and an agreed response to the Productivity Commission report, including further discussion about how to implement key recommendations that will boost public confidence in the Plan.
Victoria welcomes plans to create a new Inspector General of Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources to provide confidence in Basin Plan implementation – a proposal Minister Neville has discussed at length with the Commonwealth but is seeking further detail on the mechanisms behind it.
Victoria has commenced work on improving the transparency and effectiveness of our water market and would be happy to share this information with the ACCC to assist with their review. We will also be calling for ACCC to publicly release their terms of reference and encourage all states to make similar changes to provide confidence the markets are working as they should.
Victoria’s position has not changed. We do not support additional water buy-backs. Any additional water recovery must meet the socio-economic criteria by Ministers at the December 2018 Minco – to ensure there is no negative impacts to irrigators and Basin communities
As noted by Minister for Water Lisa Neville
“This is an important Ministerial Council for all Basin States and the Commonwealth and I will continue to advocate for the vital changes Victorian irrigators and our Basin communities need.
“I will be raising the need for further investigation into accountability and transparency issues, while also encouraging other states to follow Victoria’s lead when it comes to taking clear action to protect our rivers.
“I’ll also be looking forward to discussing the work the MDBA was asked to complete on deliverability at the last Ministerial Council – and the impacts of high flows on our river system.”