The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has welcomed steps announced by the Commonwealth Government to put communities back at the heart of the Murray Darling Basin Plan and to stop on-farm water recovery.
Meeting with Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt in Echuca, VFF Water Council Chair Richard Anderson welcomed the Commonwealth’s commitment to invest in off-farm water saving infrastructure.
“The VFF is pleased to see this renewed effort to assist farming communities with the Minister’s announcement for upgrades to off-farm infrastructure, including a $177 million investment in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.”
“The VFF has lead the discussion on the need to stop on-farm water projects that require farmers to give up water savings to the environment, thereby reducing the overall amount of water available to agriculture.”
“The Productivity Commission only warned last week in its recent report, that climate change will have major impacts on irrigators. Farmers need to be keeping their water savings to ensure they have a buffer in dryer times ahead and not be forced to give them up to the environment.”
“The Government has listened to these concerns and has taken action to wind up its Water Efficiency Program which will help give farming communities greater confidence.”
Mr Anderson however said the VFF was seeking further detail from the Government on the $60 million still being allocated to on-farm projects.
“Our understanding is that no-on farm project can pass the socio-economic tests agreed to by the 2018 Ministerial Council as it ultimately reduces the total amount of water available to irrigators. We cannot afford to see these projects go ahead.”
“We have also sought clarification on how the $150 million direct grants to farmers announced by the Minister will work.”
Mr Anderson reported the VFF took the opportunity to advocate on a number of important issues on behalf of Northern Victorian irrigators when meeting with the Minister.
“We have made it clear to the Minister that we need legislative change to end water buybacks, greater flexibility in the Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) Projects, greater focus on deliverability issues and the need to measure environmental health in more ways than just through increased flows.”
“We made it clear to the Minister that if the Government wants to continue to help rural communities, then they need to provide real certainty that buybacks cannot occur by enshrining it in legislation,” Mr Anderson said.
“The VFF will continue to work with the Commonwealth to ensure a fair Basin Plan outcome is achieved,” Mr Anderson concluded.