Members Statement – South-western Victoria rural drainage

I rise to bring to the attention of the house how unacceptable levels of bureaucracy and blame-shifting are hurting the livelihoods of farmers and rendering community sporting facilities useless. Once again a drain at Lake Gillear, which forms part of the extensive rural drainage schemes across the south-west, is blocked, again causing significant flooding and loss of income to prime agricultural land and the Warrnambool Motorcycle Club.

I raised this in Parliament last year and wrote to the minister. I was told the draft rural drainage strategy would be released soon and would solve the problems. It did not, and now almost 12 months on that strategy is still sitting in draft form and the drains have deteriorated even further and caused more damage. In one part a tunnel which crosses underneath a road reserve, Crown land and into private property has collapsed. Now that area is totally blocked.

When the problem was identified two local councils got together and came up with a workable solution. A government-issued permit was needed to do the works. The government would only issue the permit if the council took on the overall management of the drains maintenance. The farmers even tried but were not allowed to clear their own drains without a permit, which was refused. This issue needs to be sorted out as a matter of priority.

Flooding costs farmers thousands year in, year out. This pasture is lost, which was completely avoidable. Feet have been dragged, and the government strategy that was supposed to be the saving grace and clear up this mess once and for all still sits in draft form. I urge the Minister for Water to get moving on this and lay out clear guidelines for the management of these vital drainage systems for the benefit of farmers and community groups right across the south-west. The government is responsible and needs to direct that the actions needed take place as soon as possible.