Ms Neville said approval of the SDL legislation was of a greater priority than the contentious Ernst and Young (EY) report into the 450GL environmental upwater, which she described as disappointing.
“I think we need to take a step back - we need to get the SDL adjustments through the Senate,” Ms Neville said.
“I would encourage all our Senators to support Victoria and the investment which will flow out of the SDLs.
“It’s in Victoria’s interests to get this through; without it, the plan falls over.”
South Australia’s Water Minister Ian Hunter has called for Federal Parliamentarians to vote to support a disallowance motion, blocking moves by the Federal Government to make amendments to the Basin Plan.
Up to 650GL of the Murray Darling Basin Plan recovery target can be offset by infrastructure and water management, to improve water use efficiency and deliver an equivalent saving to boost the environment.
Ms Neville said once the SDL legislation was passed, Minister’s could turn their attention to the EY report, which should be discussed at their next meeting, in late March or early April.
“Assuming that does happen, and the plan doesn’t fall over, the EY report will inform our discussion around the 450GL,” Ms Neville said.
“There has not been a conversation around the 450GL, how it will apply, who it applies to, what’s the break up between on-farm and off farm projects and what’s the break up between the different states.”
The EY report was intended to add “another layer of information” to the advice Ministers had, about the recovery of the further 450GL of upwater.
“We didn’t see a final report at the last Ministerial Council meeting, we only saw a draft, so we would be looking to have a conversation about some of the findings.
“We had undertaken our own assessment, but other states – particularly South Australia – were not keen to accept those findings,” Ms Neville said.
She said Victoria would continue to argue it had done the “heavy lifting”, around water recovery, as the EY report failed to deliver a comprehensive analysis.
“We were very specific with the terms of reference, we fought very hard to have it look at more than a Basin-wide level,” she said.
She said she was concerned about some of the assumptions, underpinning the report.
“The EY report says we should only invest in large farms – to do this would be at the expense of small farms,” Ms Neville said. Victoria had done a “huge amount of work” along the Murray River, in the Sunraysia district and Goulburn region, investing in on and off farm efficiency projects.
“That does put those districts in a really strong position for the future,” she said.
But she said future on-farm modernisation projects came at a cost.
“There is a point where further on-farm modernisation continues to take productive water out of the system, so we have to get the balance right, on what sort of on-farm work we do.”
The government was looking at ways of “getting that to work – how you might deliver it, with benefits going back to irrigators and not taking water out of productive use.”
Stock and Land has contacted Victorian Senators on their voting intentions.