Protecting recreational and Aboriginal water values

Recreational and Aboriginal water values will be enshrined into law for the first time across Victoria with legislation passing the Upper House in Parliament.

Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville said the Water and Catchment Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 will embed recreational and Aboriginal cultural values into the planning and operations of water resource managers.

The Bill provides:

  • greater consideration of the recreational values of water and waterways for communities
  • greater recognition and involvement of Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians in the management and planning of waterways and catchments and;
  • clearer planning for future challenges such as climate change, population growth and changing demands for water.

This legislation will support Aboriginal cultural uses of water and underpins opportunities to use water for economic development for Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians. It will also support the self-determination of Traditional Owners by providing opportunities that best meet their water management needs.

Greater consideration for recreational and Aboriginal values will not compromise core responsibilities of water corporations to deliver high quality water for communities and water for entitlement holders when they need it.

While Victoria has a good compliance record for water theft and other water laws, the Bill makes it clear there will be no tolerance for misuse of water or water theft, and will:

  • increase the maximum fine for intentional water theft and related offences if they cause substantial harm, to $990,000 for companies or $198,000 for individuals;
  • allow for the suspension or cancellation of licences for taking water and works; and;
  • enable water corporations to issue penalty infringement notices for less serious water offences.

This Bill resets the start date for the long-term assessment of water resources in northern Victoria to 2025, to allow for the completion of works in northern Victoria required under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The long-term assessment of water resources in southern Victoria is already underway.

The Victorian Government has invested $584 million to deliver water initiatives in Water for Victoria, including a record $222 million invested in improving waterway and catchment health and $10 million for Aboriginal economic development and capacity building in water resource management.

Source: Vic Government