A state-wide rural drainage strategy is being prepared by DELWP. The draft strategy is expected to be released for comment in the near future, with the final strategy released late in 2017. The strategy is expected to focus on the drainage of private land for economic productivity purposes.
The MAV believes there will be some positive reforms for landowners including opportunities for economic development streamlining of red and green tape (bureaucratic procedures related to environmental initiatives) and environmental improvements. It may also enable greater economic production from dryland agriculture than would otherwise be possible without drainage.
However, it is likely that Councils will be designated to take a greater role and may be the coordinating agency for rural drainage. The MAV’s approach is that where new roles are envisaged for Councils, they should be dealt with under the VIC State Local Government Agreement (VSLGA) and there should be a process involving Councils to reach agreement about their role.
The MAV is also concerned about the increased insurance risk and liability profile for Councils from this role. there are currently strict liability provisions for water flows that cause damage under section 16 of the Water Act.
Consideration for how new roles will be funded and resourced by Councils is critical for reaching agreement on Council responsibility in this matter. The MAV has formed a working group. the key contact is Rosemary Hancock