Mixed feelings, ahead of Water MinCo meeting

Victorian Water Minister speaks out about water side deals


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MIXED FEELINGS: Lisa Neville, Victorian Water Minister, says she'll be going to this week's Water Minister's Council, in Canberra, with mixed feelings.

MIXED FEELINGS: Lisa Neville, Victorian Water Minister, says she'll be going to this week's Water Minister's Council, in Canberra, with mixed feelings.

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Victorian Water Minister, Lisa Neville, to hold the line on greater environmental water take

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Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville says she’s both optimistic – and concerned – about this week’s Canberra Water Minister’s Council meeting.

State representatives and the Federal Water Minister, David Littleproud, meet in Canberra on Friday.

Ms Neville said she had written to Mr Littleproud, advising of Victoria’s support for the 605 Gigalitre Sustainable Diversion Limits program, recently approved by the Senate.

“But I am raising concerns about what appear to be negotiations that have happened, at a Federal level, that haven’t taken into account this is an agreement with the states.”

Read more: Alarm over expressions of interest call for new water recovery projects

Ms Neville was referring to a deal, believed to have been struck between Mr Littleproud and Opposition Water spokesman Tony Burke, to ensure the SDL legislation was not disallowed in the Senate.

She said a bigger issue was the attempt to formally link SDL water recovery projects to the 450GL additional up water, which had never been the requirement.

“They were two separate components to the plan and Victoria’s position remains the same,” Ms Neville said.

“You cannot deliver the 450GL unless it is neutral, or there are better socio-economic outcomes.

“You can’t come into Victoria with an expression of interest, or do some of these efficiency measures, and not have a massive impact in our community.”

Efficiency EoI’s:

Ms Neville said she was concerned the Federal Government and Murray Darling Basin Authority had called for expressions of interest, for projects delivering the 450GL, in NSW.

“They are just moving forward, regardless of our views, which is contrary to both the spirit of the agreement and the agreement itself,” Ms Neville said.

“This is an agreement between the Commonwealth and the states and they need us at the table. 

“To just proceed, without any agreement of the states, will be detrimental to the interests of the Murray Darling Basin plan and relationships required to deliver every aspect of this plan.”

To just proceed, without any agreement of the states, will be detrimental to the interests of the Murray Darling Basin plan and relationships required to deliver every aspect of this plan. - Lisa Neville, Victorian Water Minister

She said Victoria was open to delivering more off-farm efficiencies.

“I will be wanting to make sure that there is a commitment that whatever has been agreed to, at a Commonwealth level, still requires the state’s agreement

“It is our partnership with the Commonwealth to deliver this, not for the different parties at a Commonwealth level.”

Claims rejected:

But Mr Littleproud said claims the 605 gigalitre sustainable diversion limits and the additional 450GL environmental up water had only recently become linked were false and deliberately misleading.

“Directions issued in July and September 2012 on behalf of the Ministerial Council mean the 450GL and the 605GL are both parts of the SDL adjustment mechanism – therefore tied together, and always have been,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The Federal Government is committed to delivering the Basin Plan on time and in full.”

The agreement with the Federal opposition, in early May, to allow the SDL legislation to go ahead would mean the government could deliver.

“That includes the additional 450 gigalitres in efficiency measures, with positive or neutral socioeconomic benefits.

“Under the Basin Plan, this could be recovered anywhere in the Basin.”

Mr Littleproud agreed a clear definition of what neutral or positive social and economic impacts were was required.

“This has been discussed among Basin state Ministers and work has begun on coming up with that definition.

“The Ernst and Young analysis identified a range of options for the additional water efficiency measures that went beyond on-farm water recovery, including urban and industrial works.

“The Victorian Farm Modernisation is an example of an on-farm program operated by the state, according to criteria that state developed.”

Plan call:

Opposition Water spokeswoman Steph Ryan said the Minister admitted she didn’t know what discussions were taking place, between Mr Littleproud and Ms Neville’s Labor colleagues over the sustainable diversion limits.

"The government failed to influence its Federal Labor colleagues, who threatened to derail the plan and throw our communities back into uncertainty, having no impact during negotiations,” Ms Ryan said.

"Lisa Neville now needs to tell us what she plans to do to make sure Victorian irrigators don't lose more water."

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