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Tasmanian Irrigation has announced that it will instigate a consultation process to discuss potential community management of publicly owned irrigation schemes in the state.

In December 2023, the Tasmanian State Parliament passed the Water Miscellaneous Amendments (Delegation and Industrial Water Supply) Act 2023 (WMA Act) into law. The WMA Act amends existing legislation to enable the Tasmanian Government’s policy to facilitate community management of publicly owned irrigation schemes, where feasible and appropriate.

Tasmanian Irrigation CEO, Andrew Kneebone, said, “In practical terms, these changes mean that Tasmanian Irrigation can delegate some of its powers and functions to irrigator groups.

“Tasmanian Irrigation supports community management of publicly owned irrigation schemes where it makes sense. We are always looking for efficiencies in how we operate schemes, and if there’s a more efficient way for irrigators to access the schemes, we support that.”

As part of the consultation process, Tasmanian Irrigation is set to hold information sessions in May 2024 to explain the implications of the legislative changes, outline what powers and functions can and cannot be delegated and introduce and seek input on draft documents that set out the process for irrigator groups to apply for delegation.

“There’s a wide range of possible scenarios for delegation, and what irrigators want may vary from scheme to scheme,” Mr Kneebone said.

“We need to understand that and facilitate irrigator requirements to the extent the legislation permits. However, some things are not able to be delegated.

“The legislation does not enable the transfer of state-owned irrigation assets as part of the delegation. All irrigation scheme assets will remain owned by Tasmanian Irrigation on behalf of the state under community management arrangements, and the WMA Act includes threshold tests to ensure protection of public investment in schemes.”

Tasmanian Irrigation is expected to remain the Responsible Water Entity and there are ongoing compliance and reporting obligations that must continue to be met by Tasmanian Irrigation.

Mr Kneebone said the WMA Act requires robust procedures and conditions for delegations to ensure that the interests of the government, Tasmanian Irrigation, irrigation scheme participants, local communities and the environment are safeguarded.

“We are looking for input from our customers and key stakeholders to help us develop fit-for-purpose processes and documentation. There’s a lot of detail to work through, which is why we will be holding consultation sessions with irrigators over coming months to help us refine the process so it works for everyone.”

Image credit: Steve Lovegrove/Shutterstock.com.

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