Water powers not right, says David Evans

RETIRED National Party politician David Evans says Victoria’s new water laws could give the water minister too much power.

The Myrrhee farmer, a member for North Eastern Province for 20 years to 1996, said the draft laws were potentially too broad in approach.

He could see the government deciding “how much water your cattle can drink”.

State Water Minister Peter Walsh released the draft water bill last week to give people a chance to make comment before it becomes law.

But Mr Evans said the February 14 deadline for public consultation was too narrow — particularly given the draft document was 600 pages long.

“The time frame is too short and the document is too long,” he said.

A public forum will be held in Wangaratta on Monday and Mr Evans encouraged all with a stake in water management to attend.

The bill brings the Water Act 1989, a document Mr Evans worked on in the 1980s, and the Water Industry Act 1994 into a single document.

It dictates how water would be used in the upper and lower catchments.

Mr Evans, as chairman of the region’s Upper Catchment Water Committee, said the bill did little to help those in the catchment and still didn’t secure the rights of those farmers to reserve surplus water for irrigation.

Other concerns included provisions surrounding control of dams, sewerage and control of water for stock, and the amount of power the minister of the day would have.

“It seems the minister will be able to make a decision on what is a reasonable amount for cattle to drink,” Mr Evans said.

“I think there is a reason to have some form of government control but the way it is exercised is important.”

He said while the draft laws did provide for the government to consult and avenues for the public to appeal decisions to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, he questioned whether that would always be adhered to.

Monday’s forum at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre is scheduled to run from 6.30pm to 8pm.

Copies of the draft bill and other information can be found on the Office of Living Victoria website www.livingvictoria.vic.gov.au/water-law-review.