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Victorian Water Minister, Harriet Shing, has just released “Planning our Basin Future Together”, a so-called prospectus to safeguard Victoria’s environments and communities in the Murray-Darling Basin. Absolutely nothing could be further from the truth. Shing has done a deal with the devil, aka Federal water Minister Plibersek.  After a stalemate period, Federal money has now been tipped into Victoria’s coffers to allow Minister Shing  to continue with her much vaunted Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project (VMFRP)  which  includes Hattah Lakes, Vinifera and Nyah, Lindsay and Walpolla Islands, Gunbower, Koondrook / Perricoota  projects and continue with Goulburn “relaxation of constraints”, better known as man-made environmental flood flows.

In return, unbelievably, Shing has rolled over and agreed to give up another 108GL of water from the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District, to be recovered through buybacks and irrigation rationalisation. We all know that means closure of further irrigation delivery channels  and increased flooding of private freehold land under the constraints project.

GMW’s  submission to the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin Plan Implementation Review 2023 says it all, when it stated it was a “ necessity for future water savings to come from efficiency projects outside of the consumptive pool. If they do not, the Basin’s largest irrigation district faces a critical threat, along with the channel network delivering environmental water, and the future wellbeing of irrigators, their communities, and the regional economies.”

Water deliveries to the GMID irrigation district have dropped from a peak of 2,100GL in 2001/02 to approximately 800GL in 2022/23 to 730GL in 2023-24. Remove another 108GL  and the actual viability  of the irrigation district becomes untenable.

Further buybacks and  environmental water acquisition will have a serious impact on the productivity of the GMID, the communities within it and the overall operation of the water delivery network as stated by GMW itself.

Minister Shing’s prospectus states if 108GL is removed this equates to 25% of the district  and 3,553 customers being affected.

It is quite obvious that the supposed triple bottom line of the Basin Plan, that is economic, social, environmental factors should be of equal significance, has been completely ignored.

When the next prolonged drought arrives, our nation’s food security will be destroyed and the ability to produce our core food staples, milk, milling wheat, rice, fruit will be lost.

The Minister states that she is committed to the floodplain projects as it is “the only way to provide water consistently to these landscapes due to impacts of river regulation and ongoing effects of climate change.”

Absolutely no thought has been  given to the fact that climate change means less water for every water user, but instead just take more and more water for the environment. To do this means not allowing the environment to adapt to a drier future, with the consequence that when the next Millennium Drought arrives, as it will with time, then the pampered environment will collapse.

All Minister Shing has to do, to stop Plibersek from acquiring increasing volumes of water, is to put a stop to the Victorian Constraints project, which is the  proposed vehicle  for delivering the additional 450GL.  Deliverability of these large volumes  of water downstream is  not possible without creating major flooding and further environmental degradation, yet no-one will acknowledge or discuss this.

Minister Shing has just sold Victoria down the river.

Jan Beer  “Cheviot Hills”, Yea, Victoria 3717.

Editor’s note: Jan has been a prominent responsible water use advocate for many years. Jan was prominent in Plug the Pipe, preventing water from Lake Eilden being pumped to Melbourne in 2010.


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