State government acts on tagged accounts

The state government has announced a start date for IVT rules change

Water
NEW RULES: Water Minister Lisa Neville says the interim regulation for tagged water will begin on December 12.

NEW RULES: Water Minister Lisa Neville says the interim regulation for tagged water will begin on December 12.

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Restrictions on moving water from the Goulburn to Murray begin in a fortnight.

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The Victorian Farmers Federation has welcomed the state government's announcement tagged water accounts will be subject to the Inter-Valley Trade rules from mid-December.

Water Minister Lisa Neville says the interim regulation for tagged water will begin on December 12, subject to final regulatory approval.

Once this happens, tagged trades will be subject to the same 200Gigalitre limit as all other trades.

When the limit was reached, water from tagged accounts would not be able to be moved from the Goulburn River to the Murray River.

Ms Neville said the new measures would secure the long-term health of the Goulburn River and provide a level playing field for all water users in northern Victoria.

"We've seen huge increases in the amount of water being traded between the Murray and Goulburn rivers in recent years, resulting in unseasonably high flows that damage the Goulburn River," Ms Neville said.

"These changes will create an even playing field for Northern Victorian irrigators - ensuring there is fairness and consistency for all, while also reducing the risk of environmental damage."

Read more: VFF calls for urgent action on tagged trades closing date

Temporary exemptions would apply for entitlements grandfathered under the Basin Plan Trading Rules and Lower Broken Creek customers while the Goulburn to Murray Trade review is completed.

Several irrigators had their sole water supply point for their Goulburn entitlements shifted to the Murray, as part of the Connections Project.

Increased volumes of tagged trade above the limit from the Goulburn to the Murray had made managing river flows and delivering water for entitlement holders more difficult.

In 2017-18, 120 gigalitres was traded, compared to just 10GL in 2012-13.

Ms Neville said expert advice and community feedback were clear unseasonably high flows on the lower Goulburn cause environmental damage - destroying vegetation, habitat and river banks.

The government had also instigated an interim operating regime that limited the volume of traded water that can be delivered from the Goulburn to the Murray system to 50GL a month, significantly below the maximum deliveries of traded water between the systems over summer in recent years.

Goulburn-Murray Water and the Goulburn Broken CMA would work with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, as the operator of the river, to deliver those volumes in variable flows that further reduced the risks.

This regime will be in place between December and April - the key period of environmental risk for the lower Goulburn River when peak demand for irrigation water leads to high flows that can cause ecological damage.

The government would also remove the remaining permanent exemptions from trade rules, including for tagged entitlements "grandfathered" under Basin Plan Trading Rules.

Victoria would raise this issue at Ministerial Council and with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as part of its inquiry into water trading across the Murray Darling Basin.

VFF Water Council Chairman Richard Anderson said the government's action is good news for farmers and the environment.

"We are pleased the government has listened to the VFF and we now have a date so everyone knows where they stand," Mr Anderson said.

"Not having a date was creating unease among irrigators, so we are pleased the Government has responded to the advocacy efforts of the VFF.

Murray irrigators who also owned Goulburn entitlement had been able to 'tag' their Goulburn water into their Murray account for use in the Murray system.

This tagged Goulburn water was not counted against the IVT rule, limiting how much water can leave the Goulburn River to the Murray.

Mr Anderson said unseasonably high flows are causing damage on the Goulburn River, impacting vegetation, habitat and river banks.

"Ensuring tagged accounts have to abide by the IVT limit ensures the environment is protected", Mr Anderson said.

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