The Victorian Government is fighting recent on-farm projects that were recently put up for consultation on the Federal Government’s website, in a bid to stick up for Victorian irrigation communities.

Victorian Minister for Water, Lisa Neville, wrote to Federal Minister for Water, Keith Pitt, to urge him to reject any further proposals for on-farm projects as they do not meet the agreed socio-economic criteria agreed to by all Basin State Ministers in 2018, and reaffirmed at the most recent Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council in June 2020.

Ms Neville said consideration of further on-farm projects completely eroded the trust of irrigators and Basin communities that any future projects must have only positive or neutral impact on their communities.

South Australia has put forward these on-farm projects totalling 288 megalitres to recover water when they clearly do not meet the socio-economic criteria and would remove water from the consumptive pool.

While the ultimate responsibility for the approval and funding of these projects is with the Commonwealth, Ms Neville is questioning why the six projects are still being considered – despite assurances to the contrary.

“The evidence is clear that on-farm projects which take water entitlements from irrigators are even worse than buybacks for our communities – who have already suffered enough,” Ms Neville said.

“Our submission of the Goulburn Murray Water efficiency project has shown that we can meet our obligations under the Basin Plan and benefit the environment – without buybacks or taking consumptive water from farmers.”

“I have written to Minister Pitt to seek assurances that these six on-farm projects, and future projects like these, will not be going ahead at the expense of irrigators in Basin communities.”

The recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics’ report Economic effects of water recovery in the Murray–Darling Basin highlighted that on-farm projects have double the water market impact of buybacks.

The Victorian Government said it has done its share, recovering 826GL for the environment – and working hard on further projects that can recover water through investment in savings, not from the consumptive pool.

The Victorian Government’s sights are now set on the $177.5 million GMW Water Efficiency Project, which is ready to start delivering as soon as contracts with the Commonwealth are agreed and signed.

This project will modernise inefficient supply infrastructure, stimulate regional economies and reduce costs for irrigators in the long term – delivering 15.9 GL of water for the environment while still complying with the socio-economic criteria.

The Federal Government has recognised that off-farm water recovery is better for communities and has publicly stated they will be moving away from these projects which negatively impact Basin irrigators.

Victoria is calling on the Commonwealth to stand by its word and reject the current on-farm proposals from South Australia – as well as any future submissions which would take water from the consumptive pool.

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