Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack told the Corowa Free Press on Friday the federal government will back Victorian Shadow Minister for Water Steph Ryan’s push to expand the Lake Buffalo dam in north-east Victoria stating their “cheque book is ready”.
Ms Ryan has flagged the expansion of Lake Buffalo and its possible connection via a pipeline to Lake Nillahcootie highlighting its ability to provide greater security to entitlement holders in Victoria, southern NSW and South Australia.
Mr McCormack said he was thrilled that Peter Walsh (Victorian Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Vic Nationals leader) and Steph Ryan have brought this project forward.
“It has been talked about for a long, long time. If it increases the capacity of water storage, provides security for South Australia and Victoria and indeed Southern Riverina then that’s got to be seen as a good thing.
“I know how high and dry Deniliquin and parts of the Murray are at the moment that have had zero allocations, anything that can put water in the system and help that ability to store water, I’m all in favour.
“I’m disappointed Lisa Neville (Victorian Minister for Water) has made the comments that she has about not wanting to build dams because of climate change, what a load of bunkum.
“We’ve got the capacity now, a federal government willing to build water storage infrastructure, why wouldn’t the states want to come on board?
“Why wouldn’t the Victorian government want to be a part of the action when there is a willing and able Commonwealth Government there with a cheque book ready, wanting, willing and able to invest in water storage infrastructure.”
Ms Ryan said the matter should be referred to the Commonwealth Government’s new national water authority for investigation.
The Victorian Government already owns the land required for Lake Buffalo’s expansion, with preliminary planning completed when the lake was first built in 1965. The expansion could be achieved through a tri-state agreement between Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
Ms Ryan said substantial water savings could be made by expanding Lake Buffalo’s storage capacity and reducing reliance on Lake Victoria in south west NSW, where 130 gigalitres of water evaporated last year alone.
Those savings could provide greater security to entitlement holders in Victoria, southern NSW and South Australia.
Investigation by the Commonwealth Government’s National Water Grid Authority would determine whether Lake Buffalo could be connected to Lake Nillahcootie to overcome the capacity constraints of the Barmah choke.
“Drought-stricken farmers in northern Victoria and southern NSW are on desperately low allocations,” Ms Ryan said.
“This is a transformational opportunity for state governments and the Commonwealth to come together to investigate a project that could provide greater security for irrigators and reduce erosion of the banks of the Murray River through the Barmah choke.
“Australians are calling out for the kind of vision that built the Snowy Hydro project. We believe the expansion of Lake Buffalo could be a similar kind of nation-shaping project,” Ms Ryan said.