The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has welcomed the new Basin Plan socio-economic criteria developed by the Victorian and New South Wales governments.
At the same time, the VFF has criticised the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources for creating uncertainty for farmers by suddenly announcing consultation sessions.
VFF Water Council Chairman Richard Anderson said the criterion developed by the States ensure projects that recover any of the 450 gigalitres of upwater will not have negative third party impacts on the irrigation system, water market or communities.
“Just as the environmental equivalence test for environmental projects protects the environment, we believe these principles will protect agriculture, farmers and regional communities,” said Mr Anderson.
“It is a testament to the NSW and Victorian governments’ commitment to the Basin Plan that they are willing to meaningfully consult communities.”
Mr Anderson said this was in sharp contrast to the Federal Department, which informed the VFF that it would be holding public consultations on additional Basin Plan socio-economic criteria for on-farm projects, with Victorian dates scheduled.
“Informing a key stakeholder with less than a week’s notice is far from meaningful consultation,” said Mr Anderson.
“We believe any socio-economic criteria must apply to all water recovery projects, not just on-farm projects.
“The evidence is in – previous on-farm projects, in which farmers had to return water to the Commonwealth to receive funding for on-farm upgrades, hurt regional communities.
“The Murray-Darling Basin is experiencing another severe drought and we fear the Commonwealth wants to recover more water when farmers are hurting the most.
“The VFF calls on Minister Littleproud to support farming communities by adopting the Victorian and NSW governments’ rigorous socio-economic principles as a matter of urgency,” said Mr Anderson.