Water Minister holds the line on savings release

Water Minister holds the line on savings release


Water
WATER SAVINGS: Water Minister Lisa Neville says she knows many irrigators are doing it tough and has assured them she'll make whatever water she can, as soon as possible.

WATER SAVINGS: Water Minister Lisa Neville says she knows many irrigators are doing it tough and has assured them she'll make whatever water she can, as soon as possible.

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The state government says it's still seeking an early release of water savings.

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Water Minister Lisa Neville is holding firm on the release of 75 gigalitres of water owed to Goulburn Murray irrigators, as part of the savings from the Connections Project.

"All parties will get their water savings from the Connections Project, in line with agreements," Ms Neville said.

She said the government was currently looking at whether it was possible to provide interim water, ahead of the final audit process.

READ MORE: Irrigators worried they won't see Connections savings for years

Both the state opposition and Independent Shepparton MP Suzanna Sheed have called for water savings to be released to irrigators.

Ms Sheed said farmers in the Shepparton region were struggling under high costs and a lack of available water, despite being promised access to upwards of the 75GL to be returned through water savings.

"I am reliably advised that 60GL of that water has now been audited," she said.

"There is no reason to delay it being made available to all delivery shareholders in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) to assist them in the months ahead."

She called on the government to release the water immediately.

"There is plenty of time to investigate other options and ways of dealing with the distribution of this water in future years," she said.

"Right now our farmers need that water; it is their water, and they should have it."

She said thousands of dairy farmers had already left the industry, placing unacceptable pressure on the economic health of the GMID over the last 20 years.

Associated industries were also suffering, with Nestlé announcing plans to close its factory at Tongala with the loss of 100 jobs.

"We cannot allow the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to continue to disrupt the very fabric of our region, closing down valuable farms and destroying parts of our environment," she said.

"We must continue to take whatever steps are available to us to provide relief to our farmers who are under such great stress as a result of water shortages and high prices."

Opposition water spokeswoman Steph Ryan said communities were hurting, and it was time to release the water.

"Enough is enough," Ms Ryan said.

"Spring Street and Canberra need to start listening to our irrigators before it's too late."

Meanwhile, the Nationals' Federal Council has passed a motion put forward by Ms Ryan calling for 300GL of environment water to be traded onto the market to assist drought-affected farmers in Victoria and NSW.

Ms Ryan said Victorian irrigators were at breaking point.

"A healthy Basin is one that balances economic, social and environmental objectives, but right now our irrigators aren't seeing or experiencing that balance," she said.

"Temporary water has risen to prices not seen since the height of the millennium drought, reaching $800/ML last week and expected to head further towards $1000/ML soon."

Victoria also successfully passed a motion calling on the Federal Council to strongly oppose recovery of the 450GL of 'upwater' under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The Nationals' Federal Council also passed motions calling for a review of the science underpinning South Australia's claims that the Lower Lakes were historically fresh.

Ms Neville said she knew many irrigators were doing it tough and assured them she would make available whatever water she could, as soon as possible.

"There are a range of views about how we should distribute the irrigators share of water savings from the Connections project," Ms Neville said.

"That's why I established a consultative committee, led by Paul Weller, to consider options and agree on a way forward.

"My expectation is that the committee will engage with the irrigation community on the preferred model, before providing a final recommendation to me."

The 60GL recovered so far was being used to underpin the government's Basin Plan water recovery obligations.

As part of contractual agreement, it must be provided to the Commonwealth for environmental use first.

Ms Sheed asked the minister not to let a committee stand in the way of relieving what was an immediate need.

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