Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has called on Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville to outline how the Government will support northern Victorian irrigators at next week’s Ministerial Council Meeting.
In Question Time yesterday, Ms Sheed urged Ms Neville to push for a practical way forward for the Murray Darling Basin Plan that would meet the needs of the environment and support the social and economic future of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.
Ms Neville backed calls by Ms Sheed and the GMID Water Leadership Forum that a “high-level independent review” with subpoena powers was required to get to the bottom of all the issues surrounding the Murray Darling Basin Authority and the current rollout of the Plan.
She said evidence did not exist to proceed with the recovery of the additional 450Gl that South Australia was seeking and that the Ernst and Young report into the extra water, which is due to be tabled at the meeting of water ministers in Albury on Tuesday, would not give Basin states the answers they need.
“We are absolutely clear that there are socio-economic impacts of taking more consumptive water out of that region, and Victoria will be strongly saying that we cannot sign up to that 450Gl unless it can be delivered in a way that is neutral or better in terms of socio-economic impact,” Ms Neville told Parliament.
“I do not think that is going to be possible, but we will not be signing up to that until that is assured.”
Ms Sheed said the Minister’s response provided some reassurance that the region’s concerns would represented at the meeting.
“We established the GMID Water Leadership Forum to provide a voice for our communities that would be heard by those in the Victorian Government and beyond and so it is pleasing to see that we are being listened to by our state’s leaders,” Ms Sheed said.
“We cannot stress enough how important it is that the additional 450Gl of water is not pulled out of the consumptive pool.
“The Basin Plan provides a range of other options for how the equivalent environmental benefit could be achieved without stripping more water out of our struggling irrigation communities and these must be exhausted before the MDBA comes knocking once again on our farmers’ doors.
"The Minister’s comments about the Ernst and Young report are concerning, but unsurprising given the negative feedback I have heard from stakeholders about the consultation process.
“However, I look forward to seeing the detail of this report following Tuesday’s meeting and in the interests of transparency would hope that it is released immediately and not held over like the expert panel report that was kept on the shelf for months.”
Ms Sheed said it was vital that the Minister continues her advocacy at the Ministerial Council meeting.
“More than three quarters of the water required under the Plan has been delivered – we’re now at the pointy end and the stakes are high,” Ms Sheed said.
“The additional 450Gl is an absolute tipping point for our region and I urge the Minister to pursue that case on Tuesday on behalf of our communities.”
Riahn Smith 0419 138 978│firstname.lastname@example.org