My adjournment is for the Minister for Water, and the action I seek is that she establish a research body to advance an evidence-based evaluation of water resource management in regional areas.
Water management and evaluation in Victoria has undergone a significant transformation in recent years as a result of both Victorian government water reforms and the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
However, there has been a sharp decline in contestable Australian research and development for water research funding, estimated at $60 million prior to 2012 compared to $10 million in 2018, creating a significant risk in terms of Victoria’s capacity to respond to current and future water challenges.
We have seen some extraordinary challenges in recent times as a result of the roll-out of the Murray-Darling Basin plan, particularly in my electorate and along the Murray and the Darling rivers.
We do at times see groups of scientists—such as the Wentworth Group—performing a strong advocacy role, and I am really concerned about the need for us to have a truly independent water research institute within Victoria. It is something that we really do not have at the moment.
So while the Victorian government does work to take a lead in balancing the environmental water needs in the community, there is a recognised need for further investment in cross-disciplinary evidence-based research. There is also a need to improve communication of environmental outcomes and ongoing challenges in a meaningful way to the communities affected by water recovery and for those further afield.
There has been a lot of talk recently about how environmental water is being used. Is it being usefully used? Is it being delivered to where it needs to be delivered? We see the slumping of banks now along the Goulburn River. We see problems with the Barmah Choke. We have seen the fourth flooding of the Barmah forest in one year. It was never the outcome we wanted to see.
There are a lot of challenges associated with inter-valley transfers of water and environmental flows on the back of those deliveries of water down the river that are now creating another set of problems.
So while we started out to try and solve a whole lot of environmental problems further down, we are now actually creating some because of these challenges in our own areas.
Victoria does need to look to what is happening in our regions and in our state rivers and put together, with Melbourne University and other stakeholders who have shown an interest, a water research body.