Water fight renewed over fund

The fight over recovering water from the Murray River under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has broken out again.
The fight over recovering water from the Murray River under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has broken out again.

VICTORIA and South Australia remain at odds over a plan to recover more water under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

South Australian Water Minister Ian Hunter has criticised Victoria amid reports it was no longer taking applications for a funding program to upgrade farm irrigation systems in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.

The two states were already at loggerheads after Victoria was critical of an Ernst and Young (EY) report that suggested an extra 450 gigalitres, demanded by South Australia, could be recovered from agriculture with neutral or positive socioeconomic outcomes.

"Not only is Victoria not honouring its commitments under the basin plan, the Victorian Government is denying its own farmers access to $30 million worth of investments for their farms," Mr Hunter said,

"The Commonwealth Government has $1.5 billion worth of funding for further investments on farms up and down the basin – will the Victorian Government deny its farmers access to that on-farm investment money, too?

"The Ernst and Young report confirms that the basin plan can be delivered on time and in full and it's time the Commonwealth Government took some leadership to ensure all states are delivering on their end of the deal."

However, Victoria's Water Minister Lisa Neville said assessments had already shown any further loss of water for farming would "hurt communities".

She said the EY report "did not properly assess the impact of taking further water from the system".

Victoria offered to pursue opportunities for off-farm water savings that contribute to the 450GL, which would have prevented more water being taken out of the consumptive pool, but the proposal was rejected by South Australia. 

"Victoria has led the way in upgrading irrigation systems across Sunraysia and the Goulburn-Murray district to ensure greater productivity and efficiency across these regions and to secure their economic and social future," Ms Neville said. 

"This has resulted in Victoria contributing significantly to water savings under our oblig­ations under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan."

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