Water market improvements for northern irrigators

Significant changes to the way water is managed in Northern Victoria have been flagged in a bid to support struggling irrigators and dairy farmers facing dry conditions and high prices for water and fodder.

Victorian Minister for Water Lisa Neville and Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes attended a dairy industry roundtable in Tatura to hear first-hand from the community, local farmers and the water sector, and discuss potential changes to water market rules and transparency.

Knowing who is buying and selling water is an increasingly important issue for irrigators. Victorian Minister Neville has asked her department to look at the options and benefits of a completely transparent water trading system, to provide confidence that the market is working for irrigators and not being distorted.

The Minister has also asked for inter-valley trade rules to be reviewed, following concerns about high volumes of trade and environmental damage to the Goulburn. This work will be completed by the end of July 2019.

The Victorian Government has recently been working on how to manage increasing demand from the Lower Murray region, with advice expected to be provided by the end of June 2019. This includes potentially curbing new extraction from the River, which has been called for by various industry bodies.

With irrigators set to receive their share of recovered water at the end of the Connections Project, a consultative committee will be set up mid-2019 to recommend the best mechanism to distribute the irrigators share. The committee will be chaired by former Victorian MP and VFF President Paul Weller, and include representatives from the irrigation sector.

This builds on the continued successful reset of the Connections Project which is on track and on budget to deliver both Stages 1 and 2 by October 2020. For the region, this means connecting landowners to the modernised system, generating significant water savings for the environment and a valuable economic boost.

The Victorian Government is also providing assistance through a $45 million drought package, making extra water available where possible and ensuring flexible hardship programs are accessible through water corporations.

An extra $2.7 million announced will further support farmers experiencing dry seasonal conditions in Northern Victoria with more financial counsellors on the ground, the re-establishment of Rural Skills Connect to train farmers off the farm, and further infrastructure grants to make farms more resilient to future dry conditions.

Source: Vic Government