Stop Victoria’s Dodgy Water Offsets

Make a submission now to speak up for our wetlands and stop the Victorian government's dodgy water offset plans

The first of the Victorian government’s dodgy water offset projects – Hattah Lakes and Belsar Island – are going through an environmental assessment right now. But with your help, we can stop them breezing through approvals. Here’s how you can get involved:

1. Make a submission now

Help expose the serious impacts these wetland engineering proposals will have on our wetlands and the risk they pose to the entire river system. 

make a submission

2. Request an extension from the Victorian government

Make sure local communities currently being impacted by flooding can still have their voice heard. To request an extension, email Planning Panels Victoria outlining your circumstances.

Email Planning Panels Victoria

3. Want to be involved but can’t make a submission right now?

Sign up to stay up to date and we’ll let you know more opportunities to get involved. 

Sign up to stay engaged

If you know these places deeply, your experience is essential.

These nine projects have so many parts. At the local scale, there might be some good things: repairing an old, leaky regulator on a weir pool-afflicted lagoon. And some bad things: clearing irreplaceable habitat or building levees that will cut off water flow. Ask the panel to consider your local knowledge and concerns.

If you love the wider Murray floodplain, speak out against the offset.

These projects have repercussions for the whole Murray floodplain. This is because they’re linked to a massive water ‘offset’ that means there’s less water for fish, frogs and waterbirds upstream and downstream. And right now, this nefarious element is outside the formal ‘scope’ for assessment. If you love and live on the floodplain, we need your help. Demand the ‘cumulative impact’ on the whole river is taken into account.

How to make a submission

Make your submission at: https://engage.vic.gov.au/VMFRP-SIAC-EES-Central

Deadline: 11.59pm on Monday 14 November

WHAT TO INCLUDE:

Our submission guide has all this information. Download it here >>

We have identified 3 key issues with these projects:

1. Local impacts from construction

Floodplains have developed over thousands of years. It’s a landscape with subtle channels and impressions. This gives it a unique cycle of wetting and drying. Water sits, moves and evaporates.

This is why floodplains are biodiversity hotspots, . That terrain supports a mosaic of vegetation and habitat. From centuries-old River Red Gum forests with deep hollows for nesting to riverine swamps with floating plants, sedgy forests and Black Box woodlands on higher ground.

But re-engineering wetlands means turning these unique places into a series of irrigation bays. To build levees, pumps and regulators, they’ll need to clear hundreds of old trees. And the historic cycles of wetting and drying will suffer as well. Instead of natural flows, there will be ponding. Some habitat will drown. Some won’t get water at all.

Natural flows have subtle variations which send cues to native fish. It tells them it’s time to spawn or to migrate. With modified flows, they might not get the message. And to make things worse, still ponds are places that carp thrive.

2. Indirect impacts to places that won’t get water

These projects will siphon water to nine sites. But what about everywhere else?

To get life-giving floods to other wetlands, we need two things. First, enough water set aside for the environment. Second, new rules that let the water flow into those wetlands.

That’s where these projects threaten the whole system. They propose to offset 605 GL, a bit more than one Sydney Harbour. Here, offsetting means keeping it in the accounts of the wealthiest corporate irrigators.

If we set water aside for the environment and let it flow, we could inundate an additional 375,000 ha of wetlands. That 605 GL is also needed to flush salt out to sea.

But if we don’t do those things, we’re left hoping for less. Along the lower Murray in typical years, that’s flows that will only inundate 40% of the floodplain instead of 75%. That’s when the chances of old Black Box slip.

3. Problems with consultation

The Murray-Darling won’t survive if we treat it as a series of separate museum pieces. That’s because it’s an interconnected system.

But these projects double-down on that toxic approach. Hand-picked portions of the floodplain will receive life support. Other places will suffer. It’s greenwashing covering up triage.

Critically, some of these issues have been difficult for locals to raise and get answers on in consultation.

Read our full submission guide 

If you have questions or would like tips on writing your submission, email Environment Victoria’s Rivers Campaigner, Tyler Rotche at t.rotche@environmentvictoria.org.au

Get involved and stay updated on the campaign

These 2 projects are the first of 9 in the Victorian Murray Floodplain Restoration Project (VMFRP). The 9 projects span from Gunbower National Park to Nyah-Vinifera, Hattah Lakes and Lindsay and Wallpolla Islands near the South Australian border.

The Planning Minister has appointed a committee to evaluate them in 4 packages:

  • Hattah Lakes North and Belsar-Yungera (EES)
    Submissions: Oct-Nov
    Hearing: Likely Jan-Feb 2023
  • Vinifera, Nyah and Burra Creek (ER)
    Submissions: Late Nov-Dec
    Roundtable: Likely Feb 2023
  • Gunbower, Guttrum and Benwell Forests (ER)
    Submissions: Late Dec-Jan
    Roundtable: Likely Mar 2023
  • Lindsay Island and Wallpolla Island (EES)
    Submissions: Mar 202
    Hearing: Likely Jul 2023

With individual Environment Effects Statement (EES) and Environment Report (ER) hearings and roundtables for each package there are going to be plenty of opportunities to get involved, particularly in the first half of next year.

If you’re keen to stay updated, get involved or lend your expertise, fill out the form below and we’ll be in touch.