Vic irrigators biggest losers

08 Dec, 2018 04:00 AM
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PLAN COST: The Victorian Farmers Federation is urging Victoria to push for a widened socio-economic test, on irrigation water recovery.
It’s alarming that Victorian communities have lost almost one billion dollars from water buyback.
PLAN COST: The Victorian Farmers Federation is urging Victoria to push for a widened socio-economic test, on irrigation water recovery.

Victorian irrigators would be about one billion dollars richer if they sold their water to the Commonwealth today rather than in 2008, according to the Victorian Farmers Federation.

The VFF has compared the price the Commonwealth Government paid for water in 2008, as part of its water buyback scheme versus the value of the water today.

The Commonwealth buyback for the Basin Plan coincided with the Millennium drought, with Federal authorities opportunistically buying water at distressed values when farmers were facing extreme financial hardship.

“Some water products in Victoria have more than doubled in value over the last 10 years, particularly Murray water below the Barmah Choke,” VFF Water Council chairman Richard Anderson said.

“It’s alarming that Victorian communities have lost almost one billion dollars from water buyback.”

State comparison

The VFF also analysed the value of water in NSW and SA in 2008, versus the value of that water today.

It found NSW communities have $450 million less as a result of water buyback and the SA Basin community has lost almost $280 million.

“Victoria was unfairly targeted with buyback which saw the Commonwealth spend almost $400 million more in Victoria than any other state.

“We have a very reliable water product in Victoria and the Commonwealth specifically targeted us and still want to target us.”

He said the Federal Government had just wrapped up its road show, trying to secure even more water.

“With less than a week to the Water Ministerial Council, we are urging the Victorian Government to ensure a widened socio-economic test is adopted by the Basin States for any recovery of the 450GL," Mr Anderson said.

“Again the Commonwealth is opportunistically trying to recover water at a time when farmers are experiencing severe hardship as a result of the dry season; the Commonwealth is ignoring their anguish and want to recover more water from them.”

Previous VFF analysis of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s community profiles demonstrated examination of full-time equivalent job losses, rather than percentage losses, the impact on Victoria was dramatically higher than the other Basin States.

More than 5000 job losses were recorded in Victorian agricultural production; compared with 2877 jobs losses in NSW and 2287 job losses in South Australia.

“These job losses cannot be ignored. The rate of job losses would be expected to increase at an increasing rate if more water is taken from the consumptive pool,” Mr Anderson said.

Littleproud responds

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud said he had consistently maintained the additional 450GL could only be delivered through projects with a positive, or neutral, socio-economic benefit.

“The criteria for a socio-economic test is currently out for consultation and ministers will be considering it in the coming few weeks,” he said.

“I recognise irrigators in the southern Basin are facing rising prices and in NSW, low to zero allocations.

"There is still water available on the market for irrigators and only a very small fraction in storage is held by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.”

He said he expected to pass on the Seftons report into consultations to the Basin states, shortly after receiving it.

“I expect the consultation report will provide a comprehensive and thorough review of all the views expressed,” he said.

“The consultation report is part of the work commissioned by MinCo and its release is a matter for MinCo.

“The decision on how a socio-economic test would be applied is a matter for MinCo.”

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