In October the Department of Environment Land Water and Planning (DELWP) released an independent report into the social and economic impacts of the Basin Plan in Victoria. The report identified the Northern Victorian dairy industry as being severely impacted by the Plan, something the VFF and UDV have long argued. The report found:
- 420 million litres of milk production lost as a result of the Basin Plan;
- 500 gigalitre reduction in irrigation across the Goulburn and Murray Irrigation District;
- If there was no Basin Plan, water use in the GMID would be 50% higher, thereby producing more food;
- Buybacks and on farm water projects have reduced the consumptive pool and increased water prices by $72 per megalitre;
- If buybacks are used to recover a shortfall in the Sustainable Diversion Adjustment Mechanism Projects (SDLAM – 605GL) then up to $370 million will be lost in agricultural production in the Southern Basin;
- If buybacks are used to recover the SDLAM shortfall and the 450GL then up to $850 million will be lost in agricultural production in the Southern Basin
The VFF and UDV continue to focus much effort on the Basin Plan and met with Victorian Water Minister Harriet Shing in October prior to the Water Ministerial Council meeting.
The VFF articulated the following positions to the Minister:
- The VFF/UDV does not support the 450GL;
- The VFF/UDV is opposed to buybacks;
- Greater flexibility is required for the 605GL (SDLAM) projects
- The socio-economic test must remain.
Recent announcements by the Commonwealth Government to enter a water buyback scheme is deeply disappointing. Even though no water is to be purchased from Victoria, it reduces the overall consumptive pool that has shown to drive up water prices and result in stranded irrigation assets. The VFF has written to Federal Water Minister Tanya Plibersek outlining our concerns and invited her to visit Northern Victoria to meet with farmers. The Basin Plan will continue to remain a key work area for the VFF/UDV as we fight for a fair outcome as we enter the final stages of Basin Plan implementation.