Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) David Jochinke has said he was pleased there would now be a wide-ranging socio-economic assessment of the Murray Darling Basin Plan’s southern region.
The next Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, in June, will be given analysis of supply measures to offset the basin plan water recovery target of 2,750 gigalitres (GL) by 2019.
There was also a proposal to consider potential socio-economic impacts of efficiency measures to recover an additional 450GL by 2024.
“We’re pleased to see the study will go beyond the requirements of the legislation in assessing the socio-economic neutrality of the efficiency measures,” VFF president David Jochinke said.
“It must assess the impact on communities, businesses, and other rural enterprises - we’ve always said it would be impossible to deliver an additional 450GL in upwater savings without any negative impacts to Basin communities.”
Mr Jochinke said the new analysis must show in full detail the damage water recovery has had not just on Victorian farmers, but rural and regional towns and communities.
“There have been several studies already, such as the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Leadership (GMID) report and the Victorian Government’s socio-economic study, which have all shown the negative impacts of water recovery,” he said.
The VFF also welcomed an agreement to recover the remaining 650GL, with the independent analysis of efficiency measures due to be handed down in December.
Victoria’s Water Minister Lisa Neville said her priority was to make sure the plan was delivered in a way that protected all water users.
“It’s critical to ensure Coalition of Australian Governments (COAG) considers the socio-economic impact of the plan,” Ms Neville said.
This would ensure the additional 450 gigalitres of water above the target of 2750 gigalitres was only delivered with neutral or improved socio-economic outcomes.
Agreement was also achieved on a way to secure the remaining 650 gigalitres of water required under the plan, without any more buybacks of water.
Ms Neville said this was influenced by the work of the independent panel set up by Victoria and New South Wales to look at the offsets mechanism.
Independent Shepparton MP Suzanna Sheed said she was also pleased the Ministerial Council (MinCo) has agreed to a full socio-economic study, and a thorough investigation of the 450GL of upwater.
She said it followed extensive appeals from the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID) Water Leadership forum.
“I, and fellow members of the forum, were told by Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) officers it would not be reviewing the impact of the delivery of the 450GL of upwater,” Ms Sheed said.
But Ms Sheed questioned the time it would take to complete the work.
“I don’t see why it should take that amount of time, given there are two studies already in place?” Ms Sheed said.
“It’s important communities understand and have much more detail on what is going on, in between these (MinCo) meetings.
“If there is one thing they want, it’s certainty.”
Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) said the independent analysis was the “sensible ouctome” it had been pushing for.
The dairy group welcomed comments Victoria was working with the other states and the Commonwealth, to deliver an outcome which benefited farmers, regional communities and the environment.
Australian Dairy Industry Council Water Taskforce chair Daryl Hoey said there would be serious implications for the dairy industry, if any more water was removed from the collective pool, without a full understanding of its impact.
“We agree with government that the Basin plan needs to protect all water users – which is why it’s critical that we understand what the different water recovery levels mean,” Mr Hoey said.
He said ADF, along with the ADIC had, long advocated for a comprehensive review of the social-economic impact for the south.
It was committed to improving the management of water, whilst achieving the necessary community buy-in, socio-economic outcomes and meeting environmental targets.