New changes that encourage local farmers to use or trade their groundwater allocation will have an enormous impact on the productivity of the Great South Coast region.

Currently, groundwater licences are fully allocated in the region; however, even in the driest of years recently, only about 40 per cent of that allocation has actually been used.

The Great South Coast Food and Fibre Council has been working with Water Minister Neville, Department officials, Southern Rural Water and Great South Coast irrigators to drive some change and implement fit for purpose regulation and approaches to trading.

Great South Coast Food & Fibre Council Chair, Georgina Gubbins, said that encouraging local licence holders to either use or trade their groundwater allocation has the potential to deliver an additional $54 million value in increased production across the region if just a further 10 per cent of licenced water is used.

“Freeing up water in this manner will provide an enormous boost to the productive capacity of our region.  This vital resource has been under-utilised for far too long and we are very excited to see our advocacy in this area come to fruition,” she said.

Ms Gubbins said that all or part of a water entitlement can be temporarily traded (like leasing) or, if it is no longer required, the licence can be sold permanently.

Victorian Farmers Federation Water Council’s Bruce Vallance said that the changes will help to unlock the huge potential of the Great South Coast region in terms of food and fibre production through irrigation.

“We have a highly under-utilised resource just sitting here, and by freeing up trading and looking at each application based on merit rather than boundaries we look forward to putting this huge water asset to work for our region.”

Great South Coast Food & Fibre Council Executive Officer, Tony Ford, said there remains other opportunities for change and that the Council will continue to advocate for changes in regulations and policy in this space.

Mr Ford commended Southern Rural Water for its work in bringing about the changes and also welcomed their move to increase resources to educate farmers on water trading and communicate what water is currently available.

SRW Manager Groundwater and Rivers, Steve Hosking, said a survey by SRW has confirmed there are a large percentage of licence holders who do not fully utilise their licence entitlements, but despite this, trading is limited.

“Demand for water does exist in the area and we are looking at removing the barriers to trade to encourage the market to develop,” said Mr Hosking.

SRW is encouraging licence holders to contact its team on 1300 139 510 to discuss options for trading to help stimulate extra production and growth in the local economy.