Water Council 

Members of the Water Council are elected on a split rotation basis at the VFF Conference for a term period of two years. Councillors must be a member of a branch within the region which they are representing.

Richard Anderson - Central North (Chair)
Kain Richardson - Central
Keith Fischer - Wimmera Mallee 
Bill McClumpha – Sunraysia
Basil Ryan - Western  
James Neary - North East  
Peter Delahunty - South West
Andrew Leahy - North West
Neil Gannon - East Gippsland
Meg Parkinson – Gippsland
Jim McKeown - Northern

Richard Anderson – VFF Water Council chairman

Richard Anderson is a mixed farmer from Bamawm and is the Chair of the VFF Water Council. Mr Anderson has chaired the VFF Water Council since 2006. He holds degrees in Accounting and Business Administration.

Mr Anderson has successfully chaired the Rochester/Campaspe Water Service Committee, a customer committee of Goulburn-Murray Water for 25 years and has been involved in the development of the Campaspe Deeplead Water Supply Protection Area.  

Mr Anderson also serves on a number of reference committees including Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy, National Farmers Federation (NFF) Water Taskforce, Stakeholder Consultative Committee for Government Buy-Back of Water, NFF Technical Working Group and salinity reference committees as well as being involved in the Echuca and Rochester Victorian Farmers Federation branches.

About the Council

The VFF Water Council is the peak body representing Victorian farmers on water issues. The VFF Water Council is a diverse and comprehensive group of VFF members throughout Victoria who represent all commodity groups of the Federation on water policy issues. Each member plays a critical role in supporting the development of Council policy.
 
The VFF Water Council’s main objective is to protect the interests of water users in Victoria in achieving efficient, equitable and profitable water use. The Water Council provides an objective analysis of the water issues and policies as well as formulating strategic policies and decisions at both the State and Federal levels.

How we link into policy council and national level policy

The Water Council is the expert voice on water issues, to provide background and recommendations on water policy development to the VFF Policy Council for their consideration. There is a requirement for policy developed by the Water Council to be considered and passed by Policy Council before it can be advocated.
 
The Chair of the VFF Water Council also holds a seat on the National Farmers Federation water resources committee.  Through this committee and our integration with the NFF, the VFF Water Council has the ability to influence policy at the national level. 

In addition to the collective national industry approach taken through the NFF, where there is a requirement for Victorian specific concerns to be addressed at the federal level, the VFF will directly advocate at the national level. This was the case through the VFF’s campaign against the Basin Plan where lobbying and discussions occurred at the state level, through the NFF and directly to government bodies in Canberra.  

Murray Darling Basin Plan

A significant win for the VFF and the VFF Water Council was the formal acceptance of water savings from environmental projects. This achievement has meant that the large volumes of water which were initially to be slashed form irrigation have been substantially minimised. Now the environment needs to be just as accountable for its own water use efficiency as the level of efficiency which is expected from irrigators. 

The VFF has shaped the argument around the recovery of water for the environment, focusing on infrastructure investment projects and minimising the burden placed on irrigators to recover water for the environment.

Drainage management

Floods across Victoria between 2010 and 2012 have shown where there are deficiencies in Victorian drainage infrastructure.  Funding drainage systems dropped off during the drought. 

The VFF is lobbying for appropriate funds to be returned to ensure that constructed drains are brought up to and maintained to a standard which allows for the appropriate operation of the drains. Further, the VFF is also lobbying for funding to be provided to CMA’s to encourage local groups to become involved in community drainage projects.

Flood protection infrastructure

Farmers must be provided with the opportunity to protect their farm assets, but all care must be taken to ensure that there are no impacts on other landholders in the area. Adequate funding must be provided to the responsible authority for the ongoing management and maintenance of levees which provide a wide benefit to the community.
The VFF support Catchment Management Authorities acting as the responsible authority for management of waterways, including vegetation management for the purpose of flood protection.

The development of new levees on either private or public land must only proceed following the completion of an assessment of the impact of the levee construction on the carriage of water across private land. Private land owners should not be disadvantaged through the construction of a new levee.

Water pricing

The VFF believes that Common pricing for irrigation districts should not be the default position for setting tariffs.
Where there are acceptable consistencies across districts a common price may be appropriate for individual services, for example for service points or meter costs.

Capital expenditure within a district is dependent on the condition of the water delivery infrastructure. Should there be costly works required in one district, another district should not be liable for contribution to the costs of these upgrades, especially if they have already conducted and funded their own district upgrades.

Where a region has been fully modernised to a consistent standard, common pricing is likely to be an appropriate move forward with regards to operational charges.

Commonwealth government environmental water

The Commonwealth Government is holding large volumes of Victorian entitlement for the purpose of delivering this water to the environment. The delivery of this water will be governed under the watering plan to be developed as part of the Basin Plan package.

However, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) does have the capacity to trade the water which they currently hold in their portfolio. The Commonwealth holds the same type of entitlement as irrigators in the Northern Victorian region, with the same characteristics.  The VFF however believe that the following are principles which the CEWH should operate under:

  • That all spills from resource storages are considered for use for environmental outcomes, with Commonwealth environmental seasonal allocation accounts are altered accordingly.
  • The CEWH must work with other delivery partners- specifically State offices of Environmental Water – to ensure cohesive and collaborative delivery of water.
  • Unless clear defendable environmental outcomes, linked to an environmental watering plan can be achieved from carryover of allocation, any unused water must be made available for trade.
  • The proposed trading actions of the CEWH, for both entitlement and allocation sale and purchase must be clearly flagged by the CEWH a year in advance in a publically available document.

Groundwater issues

The VFF has been involved in a number of ground water issues. However, given the increasing number of issues around groundwater management in Victoria, the VFF believes there is still a need to develop a more comprehensive framework for groundwater management. Sufficient funds should be made available to introduce a network of monitoring bores provided with necessary data loggers to monitor groundwater levels and groundwater quality. Sustainable yield of different groundwater aquifers should be determined at a State level.

The VFF continues to work on issues of concern to our members including seasonal allocations, fees and charges and unbundling.

Victorian Sustainable Water Strategies

The Victorian government policy documents on water management in the Northern, Central, Western and Gippsland regions have been completed. This followed an extended period of consultation for each of the regions where the VFF played a key role in advocating the view of our member. These strategies have guided government policy, with a number of action outcomes from these policy documents of ongoing interest to the VFF as the implementation occurs.

Through these Strategies, the VFF achieved:

  • Commitment to increase the maximum tenure of a section 51 take and use licence from 15  to 20 years to fit in with farm business investment cycles. 
  • Protection of water resources from unencumbered large scale forestry developments in highly vulnerable catchments 
  • Increased options for dam diverters in the Thorpdale region to review the capacity of their dam and increase trading opportunities. 

The VFF continues to work on the elements of these strategies as policies are implemented.