What are the VMFRP works?
The VMFRP aims to deliver environmental outcomes under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan using less water. Together, these projects have the potential to reduce the amount of water taken out of consumptive use to meet the environmental objectives set in the Basin Plan.
The proposed projects involve using engineering works such as regulators, pipes and pumps to efficiently and effectively deliver water to wetlands and floodplains. This is achieved by providing water beyond the regulated river flows. This is the key measure in providing a mechanism to bring about a healthy floodplain and river system
Why choose these sites?
The sites were chosen for a number of reasons, including:
- Their environmental, social and cultural values, and
- The feasibility of achieving tangible environmental improvements through works and watering.
What stage are these projects up to?
Victoria has recently secured funding (from the Australian Government – Department of Agriculture) for pre-construction activities for the VMFRP. This will support the development of engineering, detailed designs and regulatory approvals for each site, refinement of ecological objectives, operating strategies, stakeholder and traditional owner engagement.
Business cases were developed for each site in 2014 which were supported by concept designs, modelling and risk assessments that considered the extent of flooding, salinity impacts, cultural heritage and how construction works might affect plants and animals. These business cases provide useful background information for each site and can be found on the DELWP website.
Why environmental works?
Works can achieve similar environmental benefits to a natural flood, using much less water. Using a combination of works (infrastructure) and water will enable the Basin Plan’s environmental objectives to be met without sacrificing productive agricultural districts in Victoria’s share of the Basin.
The works also target areas that cannot be watered with managed floods which assists in maintaining health and resilience of floodplains during dry times.
How is the community being consulted?
Catchment Management Authorities are leading the engagement and communications for the VMFRP. They are currently undertaking landholder and community consultation on the projects’ proposed outcomes and works designs.
The VMFRP is committed to work with Traditional Owners, key stakeholders and community members to make sure their views and local knowledge is included in these environmental works projects as they are investigated further and developed.
What happens next?
Projects will need to progress through the detailed design phase and obtain all required statutory approvals. A business case for stage 2 implementation will need to be submitted to the Commonwealth to secure funding for construction of funded projects. This is required to take place prior to 2024.
What arrangements are in place for asset ownership, operation and maintenance?
Settling asset ownership and operation and maintenance arrangements are an important part of the program. This will be completed before any works are carried out. There will be no impact to water pricing for water authority customers as a result of these projects
How can these projects contribute to the 2750GL recovery target and the requirements to not take additional water from the consumptive pool?
The nine projects are part of the package of 36 projects that, together, contribute to a 605 GL reduction in the Basin-wide water recovery target (i.e. 2750 GL). This approach enables the Basin Plan’s ecological objectives to be achieved while minimising the impacts of additional water purchase on regional communities. The projects have not been modelled individually so it is not possible to quantify the offset value of each project or of these nine projects as a group.
How will Traditional Owners be involved in these projects?
Funding from the Commonwealth will enable comprehensive engagement with the Traditional Owners to ensure that Aboriginal cultural values are well understood and incorporated into the future management of these sites. This information will also be used to guide the next steps for these projects.
It’s the project’s imperative to provide meaningful opportunities for Aboriginal people to contribute to strategies and initiative and work transparently and respectfully to establish clear roles and expectations.
When will these projects be finished?
The Basin Plan requires that all SDL adjustment measures must be operational by June 2024. This is a legal requirement and applies to the VMFRP also.
What has Victoria gained from signing up to Basin Plan?
The Victorian State Government signed up to a Plan with a target of 2,750 GL of environmental outcomes for a healthy, working, sustainable Basin. The Plan’s sustainable diversion limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism allows for this target to be offset by up to 650 GL through projects that deliver equal environmental results but use less water.
Our approach of investment in irrigation modernisation and environmental works and measures which deliver equivalent environmental outcomes with less water will produce real environmental benefits to the Basin. This approach minimises impacts to regional communities and to Victoria’s economy through further water purchase.
How are the environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan going to be achieved if less water is being recovered?
The sustainable diversion limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism allows for the water recovery target to be offset through projects that will deliver equivalent environmental outcomes.
Victoria’s nine environmental works projects include works such as regulators and pumps that enable environmental outcomes to be achieved in wetlands with less water than would be needed if natural floods were replicated. This supports the resilience of iconic ecological sites, protects and restores the condition of red gum forests, allows better breeding conditions for waterbirds to be created, and improves habitat for fish, turtles and other aquatic species. It will also protect areas during drought and also target areas above what can be watered during smaller floods.
What are the next steps in the delivery of the nine environmental projects and what will the $29 million of Basin Plan funding be used for?
The Commonwealth has agreed to provide $29M of Basin Plan funding to Victoria to progress Stage 1 pre-construction activities for the nine projects. This will include preparation of detailed designs and the development of regulatory approvals in consultation with the community and Traditional Owners over the next 2-3 years. A decision to fund construction of each of the nine projects will be made by the Commonwealth on completion of Stage 1.
How will the projects progress?
The VMFRP is being delivered by a regional partnership led by Lower Murray Water, supported by the North Central and Mallee CMAs, GMW and Parks Victoria. The collective skills of project management, engineering and environmental management, and community engagement within these organisations will ensure the projects are successfully delivered to meet Victoria’s commitments.