Fruit Growers Victoria calls for water reform overhaul

Fruit Growers Victoria Ltd (FGVL) has called for the Commonwealth and state governments to address clear failures in the past decade of water reform.

FGVL has always supported the need for a Basin Plan that provides a framework for coherent, co-ordinated water resource management across the Basin. However, FGVL water spokesman Peter Hall today called out the inherent flaws of the political compromise reached in 2012.

“The Basin Plan as it was negotiated attempted to remove too much productive water too quickly and focussed too much on meeting end of system flow targets based around the flawed approach of attempting to keep a naturally estuarine Lower Lakes fresh.”

“The pressures this has placed on the system have been compounded by changed use patterns, especially the rapid increase in horticultural developments along the lower Murray. These arrangements are trying to push too much water to the bottom of the system.”

“The idea that the system can add another 450GL to the already oversubscribed lower system demand beggar’s belief.”

Mr Hall highlighted the negative consequences this has had on communities and the environment.

“The volumes of water that have left the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) have created massive social dislocation in our communities, and significant environmental damage in the lower Goulburn and around the Barmah Choke.”

“We’re also very concerned about the long term economic viability of the Goulburn Murray Water delivery network.”

FGVL’s position is that the Basin Plan is too rigid in its approach to environmental management and that the water sharing arrangements under the Murray Darling Agreement are outdated.

“Too much water is being pushed through the system. It’s more than is needed to support key environmental sites in the Basin and is causing environmental damage, which-2-undermines other positive environmental outcomes from the Plan”, Mr Hall said.

“A lot of entitlement was purchased from the GMID under the Basin Plan, but its actual use is disproportionately downstream. We’re calling for a more flexible approach to the use of environmental water, so the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) is not compelled to adopt a ‘use it or lose it’ mentality to environmental watering when not required, and social, environmental and financial outcomes for our communities can be achieved.”

“We have consistently said that the volume of environmental recovery under the Plan can’t be delivered, would do environmental damage in constrained parts of the system, and cause economic hardship for our communities. It’s time to rethink the Plan’s pathway to implementation.”

“Governments also need to have a sensible look at interstate water sharing arrangements, particularly mandated high flows into South Australia during periods of extreme drought.”

Mr Hall also called for an assessment of how to best address excessive losses through the system.

“Too much use at the bottom end of the system is creating excessive transmission losses, and the pain is being borne by upstream Victorian and NSW irrigators. Governments should prioritise developing real policy options to deal with this inequity, including a proper assessment of transmission loss pricing for water delivery to less efficient parts of the system.”

FGVL encourages all our members to make their concerns about these issues heard. “I say to members please call your local State and Federal representatives, engage with the independent panel assessing socioeconomic conditions in the Basin, and make a submission to the ACCC water markets inquiry”, Mr Hall said.

For more information:
Fruit Growers Victoria Ltd
Phone: +61-03-5825-3700

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