Parliament

Goulburn River Environmental Flows

May 01, 2019

Adjournment - My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Water, and the action I seek is that she visit my electorate as a matter of urgency to see for herself the damage to the Goulburn River as a result of high-flow inter-valley transfers and/or environmental flows. For years the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority has been tasked to deal with the improvement of the environment for Goulburn River banks and verges, and substantial sums of money have been invested in this work. We are now being faced with the loss of that valuable work as a result of continual high level flows down the Goulburn River to meet inter-valley transfers and environmental requirements. 

Action is needed to prevent further environmental damage of this kind, and I ask the minister to take steps to invoke the powers available to her to prevent further damage. There are a number of steps that are available to the minister in this situation. The water trading rules enable the minister to take action to prevent further adverse impacts on the environment or other water users.

In particular I draw your attention to water rule 26, which states as follows:

Notwithstanding any other provisions in these Rules, an application to trade may be refused if that trade would, in the opinion of the Minister, be likely to cause any material adverse impact on the environment or other water users.

The minister will be well aware of this provision and no doubt will have received advice on how this rule should be interpreted and applied. I believe that it gives the minister a broad range of powers to take steps in the current circumstances to put a cap on trades or indeed refuse any further trades that would be likely to cause any material adverse impact on the environment or other water users.

In this instance I am referring to the environmental impact on the Goulburn River, and I believe there is now ample evidence that has been gathered by government agencies and community members which reflects the damage that has been and continues to be done by the high flows in the river. I regard this as an urgent matter given that further high flows are expected during the course of the next few weeks.

I ask the minister to act on this matter now. I also ask the minister to commence or accelerate work by her department on this issue more broadly. If any review of the existing trading rules are to be undertaken, this must be done as a matter of urgency. It is most important that the actual outcome of these impacts on the Goulburn River is fully understood and action taken to mitigate such damage.

When water trading was introduced the social and environmental damage that could be caused as a result of significant inter-valley transfers further downriver and beyond the Goulburn Murray irrigation district was not anticipated. The socio-economic damage to the GMID has been clearly articulated in a number of reports, including those obtained by the government. It is now quite clear that the architects of the Murray-Darling Basin plan were well aware of the damage to irrigation communities that would flow from the plan but were not prepared to be up-front about it. River and irrigation communities up and down the basin advocated long and hard to ameliorate the impacts of the plan on their communities. The results are now in. The damage has been and continues to be done to the socio-economic fabric of our communities, and the loss will reverberate for years.

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