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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Water Act under scrutiny this week

A round-table in Melbourne this week to discuss the 2014 Water Act Review will be the only opportunity of its kind for lobby groups and stakeholders to put their views to the expert panel led by barrister Eamonn Moran QC.

CATHY WALKER August 19, 2014 3:12am

A round-table in Melbourne this week to discuss the 2014 Water Act Review will be the only opportunity of its kind for lobby groups and stakeholders to put their views to the expert panel led by barrister Eamonn Moran QC.

‘‘This was the review we had to have: the other one was done in a fair bit of haste,’’ VFF Water Council chairman Richard Anderson said on Friday.

‘‘We now need to know who’s responsible for what and who’s paying for what.’’

The VFF’s submission to the review was under the National Farmers’ Federation umbrella, and Mr Anderson said Thursday’s meeting would be an opportunity for the review panel to flesh out points raised, and to ask equation.

Seventy-five written submissions to the Water Act review were received by the July 4 closing date.

Murray Irrigation, led by Anthony Couroupis, told the review it was imperative the Murray-Darling Basin Plan be allowed to be finalised, implemented and fully operational for an appropriate period of time before it was reviewed.

‘‘Communities in the Murray-Darling Basin have now been through three decades of water reforming, commencing with the cap on diversions in the 1990s, and are now seeking a period of stability to allow businesses to adjust to the new operating environment the plan has created,’’ Mr Couroupis wrote.

The Victorian Government’s submission found the act in its current form presented many areas that were crying out for streamlining.

In announcing the review earlier this year, Parliamentary Secretary to the Environment Minister, Simon Birmingham, said the government was committed to implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan ‘‘on time and in full’’ to achieve positive outcomes for communities and the environment.

‘‘The review will look at opportunities for simplifying the regulatory burden on both industry and water managers, consistent with our overall focus on cutting red tape,’’ Senator Birmingham said.

And on that topic, many submissions to the review had more questions than answers. The Australian Dairy Industry Council and Dairy Australia said it was too early to understand if the long-term Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) were being met.

‘‘This volume will be determined by a complex combination of water savings, environmental offset works, the review of northern basin SDLs, and constraints management, all of which remain in flux,’’ the agencies said.

‘‘It will also be determined by an adjustment methodology that lacks the transparency required to engender stakeholder confidence.’’

Goulburn Valley Environment Group mourned the post-election demise of the National Water Commission as an independent arbiter of review of the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

It said political pressure connected with water trading by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder highlighted the need for the Water Act to reflect that considerations related to the sale of water did not involve social and economic considerations and were confined solely to increasing the environmental outcomes.

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