07 August 2018
My adjournment this evening is for the Minister for Water, and I would like to ask the minister tonight to meet with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder (VEWH) and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) to brief them on the dire circumstances that are facing agricultural producers in northern Victoria, with a view to the VEWH and the CEWH trading allocation on the temporary market. The situation in northern Victoria is becoming increasingly difficult. Fodder stores have been depleted by the drought in Queensland and in New South Wales, particularly with governments in those states offering transport subsidies. It is already starting to have an impact on dairy farmers in particular. We have had reports in the last week or so of some people having to send their entire herd to the saleyards, with most of the cattle ending up at the abattoirs. I was at the saleyards in Euroa last week, and it would be safe to say that the mood there among graziers was very tense.
While seasonal conditions across much of Victoria worsen and farmers struggle to feed their livestock due to fodder shortages, people have been very concerned to see that in recent days thousands of megalitres have been flooding the Gunbower forest, and I would encourage the minister to urge the VEWH and the CEWH to be more flexible in their seasonal watering plans. I think everyone else makes adjustments on the basis of seasonal conditions, on water availability and on the price of water, and the environment really should be no different. The VEWH's seasonal watering plan indicates that this is going to continue into spring, and tipping thousands of megalitres to flood the Gunbower forest when conditions across the rest of the country are so dry really is not mimicking natural conditions; in my view it is doing the complete opposite.
In light of the changes to the commonwealth Water Act 2007, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder can trade water on the temporary market, and there is a great opportunity for a win-win here.
Ms Neville interjected.
Ms RYAN — Victoria and the commonwealth, as the Minister for Water says, both have the ability under legislation to sell water and to reinvest the proceeds back into environmental measures, and with temporary water trading well above $300 a megalitre, the proceeds of that water would be quite substantial. This decision needs to occur now before more people make irreversible decisions. By autumn it will be too late. I think extra water on the temporary market would go a long way to alleviating some of the pain being felt by dairy farmers and other livestock farmers in northern Victoria, some of whom now have their livelihoods on the line. In closing, I do want to say how disappointed I am that in recent days the minister said this was 'politicking'. In my view it is a sensible suggestion, and I hope she can see her way clear to supporting it.