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Water worries aired

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May 04, 2018

Goulburn Valley Environment Group president John Pettigrew talks about water recovery at the South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Shepparton yesterday.

Allegations of water theft, the threat of further water recovery in the region and upcoming amendments to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan continue to fuel uncertainty and concern, a South Australian royal commission has heard.

Visiting Shepparton yesterday, the royal commission heard from a handful of speakers including local irrigators, water leaders and environmentalists who expressed concerns regarding the future of the multi-billion-dollar plan.

Commissioner Bret Walker SC acknowledged that the allegations of water theft ‘‘don’t make doing the right thing seem any easier’’, with senior counsel assisting Richard Beasley SC conceding regions just wanted a ‘‘level playing field’’.

Concerns regarding the possibility for further water recovery of an extra 450Gl in ‘‘up-water’’ to benefit the environment continued to be a point of contention among attendees.

Goulburn Valley Environment Group president John Pettigrew told the commission that despite opposition from irrigators, he believed the water could be recovered, pointing to research by Ernst & Young that offered a ‘‘direction forward’’.

Yet State Member for Shepparton and Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership co-chair Suzanna Sheed continued to maintain that further water recovery from the region should not and could not be allowed to happen.

The general feeling was Victoria was not the state that should be targeted for further water recovery, Mr Beasley said.

‘‘I think the feeling around here is that we’ve given up enough water and there’s simply no way you can get any high proportion of the 450Gl from either this particular area of Victoria or Victoria generally, so it has to be found elsewhere,’’ he said.

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