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Peter Ryan signs on to Federal Water Plan

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The Victorian Nationals today announced that after weeks of intensive negotiations with the Federal Minister for Water Malcolm Turnbull they were now in a position to endorse the Commonwealth Government’s $10 billion National Water Plan.

Nationals’ Leader Peter Ryan said that negotiations with Mr Turnbull centred on a number of initial concerns party members had with the original plan. These included:

  • the governance of the proposed Murray Darling Basin Authority;
  • ongoing security of Victorian irrigators’ water entitlements; and
  • the risk that water generated as a result of investment in water savings would be diverted to Melbourne rather than being available for irrigators’ future security.

“The Victorian Nationals have secured a written undertaking from the Commonwealth in relation to these and other matters,” Mr Ryan said.

“Mr Turnbull has assured The Nationals that under the Commonwealth plan water will not be compulsorily acquired from irrigators.

“Mr Turnbull has also recognised the potential impact of unrestrained trade in water entitlements and has accepted The Nationals’ proposal that the 4% cap on annual permanent trade from irrigation districts be maintained until the scheduled review, whereas the Victorian Government presently intends that there be open trade from the first of July this year.

“Furthermore, and of critical significance, is the fact that existing Victorian legislation ensures there will be no review of Victorian irrigators’ entitlements until at least 2019. The National Water Plan will honour these arrangements.

“Very importantly, the Commonwealth has undertaken to meet all charges and fees associated with the supply of environmental water entitlements.

“This is extremely important for irrigators who are otherwise faced with the burden of escalating costs associated with the provision of environmental flows. The environment has to pay its way.

“It is also in contrast to Victorian arrangements where the Government has refused to give a similar undertaking in relation to meeting the cost of providing environmental water.”

The Nationals Spokesman for Water Peter Walsh said there were various other constructive results from the recent negotiations.

“A major issue for The Nationals is the risk of the Victorian Government transferring water from the Goulburn Valley to meet Melbourne’s seemingly insatiable thirst. Mr Turnbull has given The Nationals an assurance that, before the Commonwealth invests in water savings projects in the Goulburn Valley, or any other part of the MDB, it would insist on irrevocable bindings that water would be used for environmental flows or be returned to irrigators,” Mr Walsh said.

“A great deal more work needs to be done to implement the Prime Minister’s National Water Plan. But the basic principles are sound and the Victorian Government should now sign on and be part of the process of bringing the new arrangements for the MDB to fruition.

“While hammering out this agreement, the Victorian Nationals have developed an excellent working relationship with the Commonwealth Minister and officials and we intend that dialogue to continue.

“Since The Nationals represent the vast majority of the Victorian Murray Darling Basin, it is imperative that we remain closely involved with both levels of government as details of the plan are developed.”

Member for Gippsland South, Leader of The Nationals
Thursday, 12 April 2007

… and Bill Sykes has strongly endosed the package …

“Victorian Nationals Leader, Peter Ryan and Water Spokesperson, Peter Walsh have used their combined negotiating skills and in depth knowledge of water issues to convince the Federal Minister for Water, Malcolm Turnbull, to provide a written commitment to overcome a series of major concerns with the Federal Murray Darling Basin management proposal.

“It was the Victorian Nationals who raised major concerns when the idea was first proposed – and initially welcomed enthusiastically by the Bracks Government.

“Concerns such as:-

  • a need for a cap on trading water out of Victoria;
  • ensuring that the costs associated with delivering water to the environment are not imposed on irrigators;
  • water savings made in the Murray Darling Basin to remain in the Murray Darling Basin

have all been addressed.

“And importantly Mr Ryan and Mr Walsh have secured a commitment that if the National approach doesn’t work out, Victoria can withdraw from the arrangement.”

“This written agreement removes barriers to Victoria signing onto the National Plan. Once this is done there will be a more favourable environment to address significant major water issues such as expanding Lake Buffalo and Lake William Hovell, retaining a smaller Lake Mokoan, resolving farm dam issues for upper catchment landholders and securing water supplies for communities such as Bright, Mansfield, Euroa and Violet Town”.


Written by Greg Naylor

12 April 2007 at 2:20 pm

Posted in media release

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