21 February 2023
Local water plan for regional prosperity backed for action
Following 12 months of targeted advocacy, Food and Fibre Great South Coast (FFGSC) has revealed significant progress to reform water management in South West Victoria to realise the region’s long-awaited water opportunity.
Launched at the annual Sustainable Water Forum at Deakin University on Wednesday alongside 80 government, industry and community representatives, the industry body representing South West Victoria’s $12 billion food and fibre sector said its first progress report offered promising water reform for local farmers and community alike.
Speaking at the event, Food and Fibre Great South Coast’s CEO Natalie Collard said that the region’s water opportunity had long been earmarked but only now with the support of an expert committee and government agencies, was progress truly being made.
“Today’s forum marks a year since we launched our first FFGSC’s 18-Point Plan for water reform in the region, and within that time we’ve worked across all levels of government and key water management bodies to secure vital commitments against 16 of the 18 goals that we originally set,” Collard said.
This included recent commitments from the Victorian Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) and Southern Rural Water to review barriers to temporary and permanent water trading and groundwater licensing, and to conduct research on licence holder sentiment and behaviours regarding water trading.
Jacinta Ermacora MLC, who represented Victorian Water Minister Harriet Shing at the event, congratulated DEECA for the strong, strategic work they are undertaking following the recommendations of FFGSC. She reiterated the support of the Victorian Government to investigate opportunities provided by the extensive groundwater system in the region.
FFGS’s 18-Point-Plan further profiles policy interventions to improve regional water management and commitments to carve out a Great South Coast section in the upcoming Sustainable Water Strategy to offer clear regional-specific targets and actions. This has not yet been committed to by the Victorian Government, but FFGSC stated their advocacy will continue unabated as they consider a fit-for-purpose Sustainable Water Strategy as key to long-term water sustainability for the region.
Collard said these commitments were designed to realise the region’s $40 million water opportunity that was earmarked by BDO EconSearch research in 2021 as being possible, with a mere 10 percent increase in the region’s water productivity. Importantly, this increase in water productivity is not dependent on growing the region’s water allocation, but better utilising the water already allocated to landholders.
Chair of the committee and long-term local advocate, Basil Ryan said the group had brought about more engagement on local water issues in 12 months than he had witnessed in over 20 years.
“That doesn’t mean the job is done. Far from it! But we’ve certainly secured instrumental commitments from the government and are looking forward to working further with aligned industry bodies and local leaders to further bring this about.”
The Sustainable Water Forum was made possible by our event partners Westpac, Southern Rural Water, Wannon Water, The National Landcare Program and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority, the Wannon Branch of the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria, Victorian Farmers Federation, Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and Deakin University.
The Great South Coast Sustainable Water Forum brought to you by FFGSC and our valued partners:
Chief Executive Officer
0413 009 373
About Food and Fibre Great South Coast:
Food and Fibre Great South Coast (FFGSC) is the representative body for South West Victoria’s $4bn agriculture sector, and $12bn food and fibre value chain, which is responsible for 60% of our gross regional product and 21.6% of all regional jobs. South West Victoria is Australia’s largest agricultural production region by value, dominated by dairy, beef and sheep industries and supplying 14% of Victoria’s fresh seafood. FFGSC is an incorporated organisation administered by a volunteer Board and one FTE Chief Executive Officer.