Release of 75GL return rules due soon

Release of 75GL return rules due soon

Water
KEEN CUSTOMER: Loddon Valley irrigator Ken Pattison is among many farmers keen to see the water released soon.

KEEN CUSTOMER: Loddon Valley irrigator Ken Pattison is among many farmers keen to see the water released soon.

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Release of recommendations on contentious 75GL irrigation water due soon.

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Northern Victorian irrigators should soon see the draft proposal on how they will get the 75 gigalitres of water savings from the Connections Project.

That's according to the chair of a Victorian government appointed consultative committee, set up to examine the best way to return the water savings.

Former MP and Victorian Farmers Federation president Paul Weller heads up the committee.

"We've come up with a draft recommendation to take out to irrigators, before recommending anything to [Water Minister] Lisa Neville," Mr Weller said.

"We aim to be back out to the irrigators with our draft proposal by late March or early April."

The committee is made up of representatives from Goulburn-Murray Water's six Water Service Committees and VFF members.

Mr Weller declined to comment on draft recommendation details, saying they were confidential.

Last year, Ms Neville hinted an interim water allocation, from savings owed to northern irrigators under the Connections program, may be available in October this year.

Read more: Irrigators worried they won't see Connections savings for years

She said she had asked G-MW if an interim allocation could be made when work on Connections finished later this year.

Northern Victorian irrigators said they had increasing concerns it would be 2023 before they saw promised water savings.

That's when a full audit of water savings is scheduled for completion.

Irrigators, Melbourne Water and the environment, are to each receive 75GL of water savings from Connections.

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VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said the consultative committee was expected to meet again early next month.

Mr Anderson said it was likely entitlements would be delivered, based on the number of delivery shares, or part shares, owned by irrigators.

"That was the original intention, and it hasn't changed," he said.

"It was a matter of considering other options, or if there were other options, besides that one."

He said a full allocation could not be done until a savings audit was carried out.

"But that wouldn't stop them doing an interim distribution," he said.

He estimated irrigators could get between four and five megalitres per share.

Loddon Valley irrigator Ken Pattison said irrigators were looking for their share.

"It was real water, high-security water for the three beneficiaries, any deviation from that is cooking the books," Mr Pattison said.

"We are very anxious to ensure the original commitments are honored."

But he said he had questions about how the water would be divided up, and whether it would go equally to all G-MW districts.

"Rochester district has pipelines going everywhere, does that mean they have more savings, which means they get more water back?" he said.

A formula should be developed for customers who had a percentage of a delivery share.

"You develop a formula, that splits a water share to a percentage of 10, and then adds the entitlement to the register of the customer," he said.

Cohuna dairy farmer Jodie Hay said she was told the water would not be delivered until Connections was finished.

"I don't know whether that has been fast-tracked or not because of the carnage, but any sort of water, in this space, would be welcomed," Ms Hay said.

"They have identified water for productive use is essential, by attaching it to land, it at least encourages that."

She said many northern Victorian irrigators were hanging on by their fingernails.

"They are in dire straits," she said.

"It's a hideous set of circumstances, we have the most modernised irrigation infrastructure, probably in the world, and we can't afford to put water in it."

Numurkah dairy farmer Edan Cockerell said he was looking forward to getting more water.

"As owners of high-reliability water shares, we would be in line for a share of the redistribution," Mr Cockerell said.

"We are also exposed to the temporary water market, so additional water in the system could ease the pressure on that side of the ledger.

"In turn, this should also ease investor pressure on HRWS prices."

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