State Member for Euroa and Shadow Minister for Water Steph Ryan has accused the Victorian Government of delaying a review of water resources in northern Victoria.
However State Minister for Water Lisa Neville said this was because Ms Ryan does not understand the role of the water resource assessment.
Ms Ryan said stalling would leave the state without the information it needed to defend the interests of Victoria’s basin communities and Daniel Andrews was kicking the can down the road with his decision to delay an assessment by seven years.
‘‘The Andrews Labor Government is blindly pressing ahead with the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan without up-to-date information,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘We need to know where Victoria’s water resources are at so we can fight for a fair deal through the implementation of the plan.
‘‘Instead of sticking their heads in the sand, Daniel Andrews and Lisa Neville should be building a strong case against having further water taken from Victoria’s basin communities.’’
However Ms Neville said that doing the assessment before the sustainable diversion limit adjustments are implemented under the Basin Plan would provide a false picture of water decline that does not take into account the work Victoria is doing to return water to the environment.
‘‘(Ms Ryan’s) proposal risks more water being taken from irrigators,’’ Ms Neville said.
‘‘The assessment must take into consideration the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, to ensure we have a true picture of water availability.”
Ms Ryan disagrees and said under the Water Act 1989, the Victorian Government was required to undertake a long-term assessment of northern Victoria’s water resources by 2019.
‘‘This review of water resources in northern Victoria is supposed to take place every 15 years but the Andrews Labor Government doesn’t want to conduct it until 2026, after the basin plan has been fully implemented,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘Some landholders have raised concerns with me that the plan is being rolled out using data that is out of date.’’
Ms Ryan said the Liberal Nationals had opposed the move in the Legislative Assembly, but Labor had used its numbers to force the change through.
‘‘Delaying that assessment by seven years means that we will be working to out-of-date data,’’ Ms Ryan said.
‘‘Daniel Andrews’ decision to sit idly by and wait until the basin plan has been implemented before carrying out that assessment only creates more confusion and uncertainty for Victoria’s basin communities.’’
However Ms Neville said that if the assessment is undertaken in the timeframes that Ms Ryan suggests, it would show that a decline in water availability is being felt more by the environment.
This is due to fact that the assessment won’t account for MDBA environment water and would require a legal rebalance of water back to the environment.
Ms Neville asserts that this could result in water unnecessarily being taken from irrigators which would hurt farmers and regional communities in Victoria.