CEWH needs to release water for dairy

Victorian National's MP calls for environmental water release to dairy farmers


Water
WATER CALL: Federal Nationals MP Damian Drum wants the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to release some of its allocation to northern Victorian dairy farmers.

WATER CALL: Federal Nationals MP Damian Drum wants the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to release some of its allocation to northern Victorian dairy farmers.

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Release environmental water for farmers, says Nationals MP

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Federal Murray MP, the Nationals Damian Drum has called for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to urgently release up to 50Gigalitres of its allocation to northern Victorian farmers with a dairy licence.

Mr Drum said the CEWH still held plenty of water, while NSW irrigators were on zero allocation and northern dairy farmers were being priced out of the market.

He said the CEWH would need to put caveats on how the water should be sold, to ensure it was not bought by speculators.

"I don't think it needs legislative change, but the CEWH has to have comfort in the knowledge they have enough water to achieve their environmental outcomes," Mr Drum said.

"The vast amount of environmental outcomes this year have been met as a result of the high river flows."

He said the dairy industry needed immediate assistance, with the cost of temporary water regularly running more than $500 a megalitre.

"Our farmers are desperate, and we are losing farmers from the dairy industry at unprecedented rates to the extreme conditions currently being endured," Mr Drum said.

The drought situation on the east coast of Australia is seeing our irrigation communities impacted like never before."

He said in addition to community support, there was significant industry support behind the call.

Letters of support had already received from processors Australian Consolidated Milk, KyValley Dairy, Freedom Foods, and Fonterra.

"The exiting of these farmers is having a direct and multiplied negative economic and social effect on associated industries and local communities," Mr Drum said.

Meanwhile, the State Government has released additional water, identified as no longer being required for the Connections project.

Water Minister Lisa Neville said the water wasn't required for irrigation modernisation projects.

"Given the ongoing tough conditions our regional and rural communities are facing, we know any additional water we can provide is a welcome boost for those living and working in Northern Victoria," Ms Neville said.

"Offering additional water for sale is a practical way we can support irrigators and farmers and is another demonstration of how we're continuing to get things done on the ground across the region."

The additional water will be offered up for sale on the northern Victorian water market through selected brokers from late March to June 2019.

This was on top of the Northern Victorian Resource Managers recent seasonal determination for Goulburn allocations, which have now reached 100 per cent.

Minister Neville has also required 75 gigalitres owned by Melbourne water corporations to remain in northern Victoria and be made available to irrigators through the water market

The VEWH is also selling 10GL, regarded as surplus to requirements.

Shepparton Independent MP Suzanna Sheed welcomed the additional water being made available to northern farmers.

She urged Goulburn Murray Irrigation District farmers to take advantage of the offer.

"In an ideal world, given the water has come out of the GMID system it would be returned to GMID irrigators and not the broader northern Victorian water market, but getting any water back into the system is a positive outcome for our farmers," Ms Sheed said.

Ms Sheed said the region's food producers were at a crossroads and that it was time for the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to show its support.

"The GMID has already lost almost a third of its dairy farmers in the past two decades due to drought, high water prices and industry challenges and forecasts suggest we'll lose even more by the end of the year if farmers aren't given the help they need," Ms Sheed said.

"Losing dairy puts our irrigated horticulture at risk, and the impact of that on both the state's economy and our access to high-quality, locally grown produce would be devastating.

"The Commonwealth holds a huge amount of water in storage, and I would urge the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to follow its Victorian counterpart and put some extra water on the market."

The CEWH has been contacted for comment.

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