SOUTHERN Rural Water has hit back at a push for it to be called before a parliamentary inquiry saying critics should look at its groundwater management track record.
On Wednesday the Greens put a motion forward in State Parliament’s upper house.
At the time Greens Leader Greg Barber said Southern Rural Water was clobbered by the Auditor-General two years ago, who at the time said it was issuing licences without knowing how much groundwater was available.
“I want to know if anything has changed since then,” Mr Barber told The Standard this week.
He said farmers and residents had contacted him with concerns.
The debate did not conclude on Wednesday night and the motion is expected to return to Parliament on October 24 for a vote.
Southern Rural Water managing director Clinton Rodda said the organisation had a robust process for assessing groundwater applications against the Water Act, which considers the sustainability, the environment and the impact on neighbouring bores.
“We are proud of our open and transparent licence assessment processes for significant applications, which include public advertisement, advice to neighbour properties and sometimes public forums to hear from the community and applicants on the licence application,” Mr Rodda said during the week.
“There can be people who disagree with our decisions, whether we approve or deny the application.
“Anyone who disagrees has the right of appeal to VCAT.
“We are proud of our strong track record at VCAT.
“In fact, we have had a landmark decision upheld by VCAT for taking a precautionary approach to approval of a major groundwater licence.”
Mr Rodda said claims that the Victorian Auditor-General’s report said Southern Rural Water had issued too many licences were not correct.
“We believe Victoria has a sound groundwater management framework — which includes formal declaration of high use groundwater areas, management plans and local rules, an extensive state observation bore network for regular monitoring of groundwater levels, and powers for rural water authorities to manage use.”
Mr Rodda said that across Southern Rural Water’s region, most shallow aquifers that declined during the drought have shown significant recovery over the past two years.
“To be fully transparent, anyone can check out the groundwater levels in their local area via our website,” he said.