A BILLION dollars for crucial water projects in Victoria is being withheld because of the Brumby Government's tardiness, according to federal Water Minister Penny Wong.
In an attack that caught the State Government by surprise before today's meeting of water ministers from around the Murray-Darling river system, Senator Wong urged Victoria to move more quickly on a project that would save 200 billion litres of water a year.
The attack revolves around the second stage of the Foodbowl Modernisation Project, to which the Commonwealth has promised $1 billion to upgrade irrigation channels in northern Victoria.
The money was promised 15 months ago on the grounds that planning and evidence would prove the project to be a sound investment. Senator Wong told a gathering of Victorian farmers yesterday that she was still waiting for the State Government to provide that basic planning and business case.
Some of the stage two work has been accelerated, and a deal was struck for Victoria to provide a business case for some of the preliminary work by the end of this month. But Senator Wong said she wanted the entire business case submitted as soon as possible.
Victorian Water Minister Tim Holding said the first stage was being delivered rapidly and the Commonwealth would get some documents about stage two by the end of the month.
The surprise attack is expected to raise tensions at this morning's meeting of water ministers, with South Australia's threat to take Victoria to the High Court over water trading rules expected to dominate.
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