The Andrews Labor Government is protecting the environment and water entitlement holders against the negative impacts of increasing water extractions below the Barmah Choke with a new licence review process.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville has directed Lower Murray Water and Goulburn Murray Water to refer all licence applications in the lower Murray region to her for assessment for the next 12 months.
No new licences for extraction will be issued or limit increases granted unless it can be shown that there will be no increased risks to the environment or entitlement holders.
Increased demand for water downstream has resulted in high summer flows, which are eroding important waterways such as the Barmah Choke and Goulburn River – while growth in extraction is also changing the risks of delivery shortfalls.
An independent report on the supply of water in the southern Murray-Darling Basin shows demands for horticulture are higher than previous estimates and will continue to grow as existing plantings mature.
At Ministerial Council in December 2018, Victoria drove an agreement from all governments to direct the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to do new modelling to quantify these risks and better understand drivers of delivery risks through the system.
While that work is underway the Labor Government is taking a precautionary approach to limit any further negative impacts from new extractions.
This approach will be reviewed in 12 months, when MDBA modelling is complete and all states can put clear plans in place to manage how water is delivered through the Murray system without unacceptable impacts to the environment and entitlements.
The Minister has asked her New South Wales and South Australian counterparts to consider similar actions before MDBA modelling is completed and has requested that this issue is discussed at the next Ministerial Council.
This move is part of the Labor Government’s push to make sure market settings are appropriate and working for all water users and the environment. Key actions this year will include more consultation on water market transparency and reviewing the Goulburn to Murray trade rule.