Goulburn Murray Irrigation District

October 15, 2019

Adjournment - My adjournment is for the Minister for Water, and the action I seek is that she immediately establishes a formal review of the carryover rules as they relate to irrigators in northern Victoria.

Carryover was introduced into the Murray, Goulburn and Campaspe systems in 2007. It was initially limited to 30 per cent carryover, and indeed there remained a limit on trade out of the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district (GMID) at that time. A great deal has changed since the carryover rules were first introduced. The rollout of the Murray-Darling Basin plan and water trading policies are some of the fundamental changes that have occurred.

Speculators have entered the market and there are many water traders who no longer own land, and the impact of this on the availability and price of water in the Goulburn-Murray irrigation district cannot be overlooked. It should be noted that carryover is a device used by many farmers to assist them in the year-to-year management of their enterprises. There are strong arguments as to why it should be retained. In saying this, however, there are major concerns that exist in the community because of the lack of transparency in relation to water trading. Many believe that carryover is being manipulated by speculators to the detriment of farmers, who use their irrigation water to grow food. There is evidence that speculators carry over water to make water scarce and increase prices to genuine irrigators.

Among the many unforeseen impacts of policy changes since 2007 is the fact that there has been a resultant significant increase in the flows of water to South Australia amounting to approximately 1000 gigalitres per year since that time. The recent report from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority entitled Transition Period Water Take Report 2017–18 identifies that over the last nine years irrigators in the southern connected basin have used on average 1200 gigalitres less than the cap allows. This report also identifies that the flows into South Australia have averaged 1000 gigalitres per annum more than was expected under the basin plan modelling. This is a huge positive for the environment that is not being acknowledged. This report puts numbers to what we in the GMID have been arguing for some time. Deputy Speaker, I seek to make available page 52 of the said report and draw members’ attention to figure 2.9 appearing on that page. Leave granted. Ms SHEED: Governments must recognise the extra flows that are occurring on an annual basis to South Australia and that the basin plan has exceeded its original targets. The monumental fact arising out of this now tested and documented information from the Murray Darling Basin Authority is that there is simply no need now to recover the additional 450 gigalitres of water. Recognition of this water will also mean that any shortfall on sustainable diversion limit projects will be taken care of.

The time has come to review the carryover rules and the impacts they are now having. As part of this, the spill rules need to be reviewed and changes made to ensure that carryover is tied to land.

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