Changes recommended on delivery shares

By Country News

A shake-up of delivery shares could be on the cards, with a recent review into the system recommending a suite of changes to improve access, cost and transparency.

Yet VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said there was a long road ahead to reform.

The Delivery Share Review, undertaken by DELWP and released last Monday, made six recommendations — including introducing seasonal delivery shares and limited term contracts.

But while some recommendations surrounding increasing information and transparency were able to be implemented quickly, Mr Anderson said the crux of the issue continued to be Goulburn-Murray Water’s infrastructure access fee and tariffs.

He said recommendations such as seasonal delivery shares and limited term contracts were not helpful unless it was clear what charges they would acquire and what effect it would have on the revenue base of the district.

‘‘There’s a sequence of events that need to happen ... you need to pull all these bloody fees apart,’’ he said.

‘‘The next step now is to follow on with further working groups (to explore the ideas more).

‘‘They only get one shot at this, it’s too important for either side to play politics. We want outcomes.’’

DELWP staff were met with a fiery public meeting in Shepparton in August as concerns boiled over about the future viability of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District and the region, the rising cost of water and maintenance of infrastructure, and reduced access to water.

‘‘Most community concerns around delivery shares were linked to broader issues around how water ownership and use have changed since delivery shares were introduced,’’ the report said.

The volume of high-reliability water shares in the GMID had decreased by 40 per cent since 2000, with large volumes of entitlements sold to horticultural developments downstream and significant purchases by the Commonwealth as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The changes in the system have resulted in under-utilised infrastructure spread across the region, with less irrigators to shoulder the cost of running the system.

■Seasonal delivery shares:

Divide existing full-season delivery shares into smaller seasonal shares to support crops with water demands outside the current dominant crop types.

■Limited term contracts:

Would guarantee a service for a specified timeframe, rather than remain an ongoing obligation.

■Delivery share markets:

Establish principles for progressing trade in delivery shares to be managed by the water corporations.

■Distribution of water efficiency dividends:

Return any water efficiency dividends created by modernisation to irrigators on the basis of delivery shares to reflect the contribution each has made to the costs of the system’s operation.

■Spatial decision-making processes:

Improve the ability of water corporations to make asset reconfiguration, rationalisation and level of service decisions with the assistance of customers.

■Information, communication and transparency:

Improve information currently available around delivery shares including clear information on all costs; provide up-to-date reports on channel capacity, use and delivery shares; provide information on how delivery shares can be used; and require real estate agents to disclose any delivery shares attached to land for sale.