The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) says it won’t accept any plans that would lead to the flooding of private property to achieve targets under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
In response to the ABC’s reporting of new academic research examining the flooding of wetlands, VFF Water Council Chair Richard Anderson said farmers’ property rights were at risk unless government committed not to flood properties.
“The VFF strongly supports landholders’ property rights and we strongly oppose any moves that would limit or extinguish those rights.”
“The Basin Plan must be amended to protect farmers and landowners’ rights,” Mr Anderson said.
The Victorian Government has consistently stated no private land will be flooded without landowner consent and that land will not be compulsorily acquired to allow flooding.
Mr Anderson said other Basin states and the Commonwealth must make similar commitments at the forthcoming Ministerial Council meeting.
“The only way to meet the Plan’s 2024 deadline would be to use compulsory powers to acquire easements. The Commonwealth should be upfront and clear about any compulsory acquisitions. If not, then the 2024 deadline must be dropped.”
Mr Anderson said the VFF was also concerned by the lack of unity across the Basin on the issue of flooding and constraints management.
“The VFF is perplexed as to why other irrigator groups in other States would be happy to let their fellow farmers be intentionally flooded?”
Mr Anderson said over 1600 agreements are required to implement the constraints projects from Hume to Wakool.
The most recent large-scale project to negotiate easements between Hume Dam and Yarrawonga commenced in 2001. 107 landowners were approached to voluntarily create easements in recognition of the damage caused by long-standing operating practices. Some 16 years after the project started, 85 landowners agreed to the easements but 23 landholders have still not signed the agreements.
“It is inconceivable that over 1600 voluntary agreements to allow flooding can be achieved,” Mr Anderson said.
“Practical and realistic options must be developed in consultation with landholders to use the water already available to the environment efficiently. The Commonwealth’s focus on water recovery ignores the fact, which has been independently verified, that the water cannot be delivered,” Mr Anderson concluded.