Changes in the trading rules for the pumped irrigation districts in the Sunraysia region will give local irrigators more opportunities to sell water.
Water Minister Tim Holding said districts that had already reached the four per cent limit on permanent trade of water outside the area have been grouped with a district that has not yet reached the limit.
“The Brumby Labor Government understands the financial distress for many farmers in Sunraysia hit by the collapse in wine grape prices and contracts,” Mr Holding said.
“We are finding a balance between providing Sunraysia irrigators with more flexibility to trade water for cash flow while protecting the local economy and preventing huge volumes of Victorian water being traded permanently out of agricultural production in the State.”
Water share trading out of the Robinvale, Redcliffs and Merbein group of irrigation districts has been restricted since September last year when the four per cent limit was reached.
However, about one billion litres is still available for trading out of the Mildura District.
Mr Holding said by changing the trading rules, irrigators in Robinvale, Redcliffs and Merbein will be able to share in the space available under the Mildura District limit.
“More farmers in the Robinvale, Redcliffs and Merbein districts will now be able to enter the water market,” Mr Holding said
“This may also free up water for purchase as part of the Australian Government’s buyback program to return water to the Murray River for the benefit of the environment.
“The Victorian Government is working to ensure farmers and regional communities can meet the challenges of ongoing drought and climate change.”
Victoria has maintained a four per cent limit on permanent water trade out of irrigation areas since 2002 to help communities adjust over time to the social and economic impacts of large volumes of water leaving irrigation areas.
Victoria has agreed to phase out the four per cent cap from 2011 depending on a review of the irrigation modernisation program.
The changes to water trading in Sunraysia will come into effect from close of business today.
Lower Murray Water will hold a ballot for irrigators applying to sell their water shares under the changed trading rules.