Goulburn River trading rules set

Temporary trading rules for the Goulburn River are about to become permanent. Photo by Julie Mercer

Interim trading rules for the Goulburn River will be converted to permanent after a decision by the Victorian Government.

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville has announced new permanent trade and operating rules for the Goulburn to Murray, keeping flows lower over summer and autumn, while not increasing delivery risk for irrigators.

Interim trade rules were put in place for the Goulburn River in 2019 and were extended last year.

Over the past 12 months, further testing has been conducted and consultation with scientists, river operators, Traditional Owners, environmental waterway managers, irrigators and the community to settle on rules for the long term.

From July 1, the government will replace the interim rules with similar long-term trade and operating rules.

Over recent years, there has been increased pressure on the Murray River and Goulburn River to deliver trade and environmental water, which has led to constant high flows in the Goulburn during summer.

These high flows prevent vegetation growth and fish breeding and cause erosion and bank degradation.

Two extreme dry years from 2017 to 2019 saw no trade available from the Murrumbidgee system in NSW and no inflows from the Darling River — pushing up demand from the Goulburn River to new levels, causing continuous high flows.

In an average year, new trade opportunity will be about 150 gigalitres, an increase from 130Gl under the interim rule, while still allowing for extended low flows in summer.

Ms Neville said this was a similar amount of trade to 2020, and more than was seen last year.

The permanent rules include an exemption for tagged water use restrictions for the Lower Broken Creek while trade and water use behaviours on the Lower Broken Creek are monitored over the next four years.

“The new rules will support irrigators by providing sustainable trade opportunities without impacting other water users or damaging the environment.”

VFF water council chair, Andrew Leahy said the VFF acknowledge that they need to strike a balance between protecting the rivers and getting water to farmers.

“The Goulburn has suffered severe erosion and tree deaths as a result of high flows, the VFF acknowledge that this needed to be addressed.”