News | 16th Nov, 2001

Murky water dims Coalition’s pipe policy

Tuesday, 16 November
Peter Ker, The Age

Crucial aspects of the Coalition's north-south pipe policy remain unanswered, with Ted Baillieu refusing to reveal the beneficiaries of water that he would stop from flowing to Melbourne.

Mr Baillieu has confirmed that a Coalition government would not allow Melbourne to take water from the pipe unless the city urgently needed supplies for ''critical human needs'', and only if there was ''sufficient'' water in the Goulburn region where the pipe sources its flows.

His plan would mean that up to 75 billion litres each year would be up for grabs.

The Coalition was coy yesterday when asked what it would do with the water instead of sending it to Melbourne, with Mr Baillieu's spokesman Simon Troeth saying: ''If the water was not used it would stay in the north of Victoria.''

When asked if that meant the water would go to farmers or to environmental flows in rivers, he refused to elaborate.

The Coalition policy also has massive ramifications for Melbourne Water, which has contributed $300 million to irrigation upgrades in northern Victoria in return for getting access to the pipe water.

Environment Victoria spokeswoman Juliet Le Feuvre said the water should be kept in the Goulburn River and returned to help environmental treasures such as the new red gum parks near Echuca.

''The Goulburn River desperately needs a greater share of its own water, as it is in the worst condition of all the rivers in the Murray Darling Basin,'' she said.

Victorian Farmers Federation spokesman Richard Anderson said the pipe water should be bound by the same rules as irrigators, which would allow Melbourne to store 75 billion litres in Eildon Dam for emergencies, but any extra water that accrued would be surrendered.

''They could carry it over, but eventually, it would spill over into the communal pool,'' he said.

Water Minister Tim Holding said Melbourne households deserved some returns from their financial investment in the pipe and irrigation improvement projects.