Water leaders in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District will meet on Monday to set out a clear definition of socio-economic neutrality, under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
They’ll be part of a workshop, aiming to develop a set of principles appropriate to the GMID, to help inform a new, wider socio-economic test.
The test must be applied to the recovery of a further 450GL of environmental water from farmers.
The Federal Government has issued expressions of interest to recover the additional 450GL of water , on the condition it would result in neutral, or positive, socio-economic impacts from recovering this water.
But the GMID Water Leadership group has argued the test is too narrow.
Co-chair David McKenzie said when governments failed to act, it was important for communities to stand up for their own futures.
"Three months ago, the Federal Government promised it would consult with community to design a new socio-economic impact assessment to ensure no further hardship is inflicted on the regions, yet all we have heard since is silence," Mr McKenzie said.
"With the Christmas deadline fast approaching, the GMID must now express its own view of neutrality principles.
"If our region doesn't develop absolute clarity on what matters to us, someone in Canberra will work it out for us and history tells us that trusting bureaucrats in Canberra to understand what is critical for our region hasn't worked out well in the past."
Co-chair and Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed said it had been disappointing to learn the Federal Government was pushing ahead with several water recovery projects before the new test was developed.
"It is absurd to announce a wider socio-economic test will be developed and applied to future water recovery and then invite tenders for a raft of initiatives that will be exempt from it," Ms Sheed said.
"Even the Productivity Commission has singled out these projects as being irresponsible without an appropriate socio-economic assessment.
"This is a fight we've been having for some time now, but we won't stop our advocacy until we achieve a fair deal for our communities.
"This is crunch time and we will continue to take every opportunity we can to be part of the conversation and the solution."