Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum welcomed Friday’s decision by state and federal water ministers to protect socio-economic impacts when transferring water to the environment.
Mr Drum has been fighting for the decision for years and the sense of urgency had ramped up recently with looming federal and NSW elections throwing up the potential for changes of government and a different outcome.
‘‘If we lose the next election and Tony Bourke was in this position, he would have no interest seeing this done... 12, six and, even two months ago everyone was wondering how we were going to pull all this together,’’ Mr Drum said.
‘‘This is an early Christmas present — it’s the most important bit of water policy. I wanted to stop the 450Gl leaving the region.’’
Under the tightly-defined new rules any more water to be transferred out of agriculture to the environment can only happen where there is a neutral or positive impact on communities, and not the more loosely-defined impact on individuals as some had been arguing for.
‘‘When we drill down into the definition, one of the deciding factors with any new project is will it force the price of water up? We have a safeguard against that now,’’ Mr Drum said.
‘‘We have another safeguard against the loss of jobs built into the criteria.’’
The agreement could not have happened without a Coalition government in South Australia and the National Party controlling the federal water portfolio, according to Mr Drum.
Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud was able to negotiate between Canberra and the South Australian Government to provide critical funding for that state’s own water needs, he said.
Mr Littleproud made four recent visits to Goulburn Valley with each of them involving consultation on the 450Gl according to Mr Drum.
While the decision would not have an immediate economic impact, Mr Drum said it would provide certainty for the region’s dairy and horticultural industries.
‘‘This will not fix up the price of milk or the price of pears, but what it will do is take away the worry that more water will leave the district,’’ he said.