Tougher penalties for water theft could be on the way with Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville drafting new laws in the wake of a report into water compliance within the Murray-Darling Basin.
Yet despite the plans, Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan has accused the Labor Government of dragging its feet on water compliance reform, claiming a solution has been sitting on the minister’s desk for years.
Following the release of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s report into compliance last week, which explores the effectiveness of all basin states and territories, Ms Ryan said Victoria was facing undue scrutiny due to the Victorian Government’s inaction.
‘‘My concern is that the Liberals and Nationals, when they were in government, undertook a comprehensive rewrite of the Water Act to address gaps within the compliance regime,’’ she said.
‘‘Lisa Neville and the Labor Government have dropped the ball on compliance and our reputation has been unfairly tarnished because she’s left it to sit on her desk for three years.’’
The report identified a strong culture of compliance within the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District, and Ms Ryan said it was due to the fact that stealing water within the GMID region was recognised as ‘‘stealing from your neighbour’’.
With Victoria criticised by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority for its inability to translate vigilance into prosecution of offences, Ms Ryan suggested stronger penalties for those committing water theft including remedial action notices and infringement notices to apply to a broader number of offences.
‘‘We do not have the same issues occurring in other states ... A vast majority of people do the right thing and abide by their own entitlements. But when they don’t do that, then that needs to be addressed because it impacts on everybody,’’ she said.
Water Minister Lisa Neville was not available for comment.