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Tas Irrigation – Water Allocation and Access

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Tags: Irrigation, Water

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you. Minister, I note that on a number of instances in recent questions, you've happily referred questions to the CEO. They're operational except for when we were asking questions about river health. Perhaps, these are also questions for the CEO.

What is the total volume of water allocations Tas Irrigation has on issue from the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) and how does that compare to five years' ago? I am happy to put these on notice, but I have to say them before I can get them put on notice.

Mr BARNETT - You do have to say them. I thank you for the question. We can agree to disagree on the basis of your first remarks but I am happy to -

Ms O'CONNOR - Most things. Well, it's just an observation that you referred many questions to Mr Kneebone except for ours on river health.

Mr BARNETT - If you want to comment I am happy to comment back; but I am happy to assist the committee in the usual way. I will see if the CEO can assist or the Chair.

Ms HOGG - I cannot assist, I'm sorry.

Mr KNEEBONE - I will have to take it on notice. It was the total?

Ms O'CONNOR - What is the total - and we will write this out. What is the total volume of water allocations Tas Irrigation has on issue from DPIPWE? How does that compare to five years ago? My second question, how many applications for water allocations has Tas Irrigation made to DPIPWE since 2019? How many of these have been refused? What is the total volume of the refusals?

Mr KNEEBONE - I can answer the last part, minister. I do not believe we have had any refusals. I would have to take on notice but it is going to be in the order of three or four since 2019. We have not made formal application. Generally, when we are doing an assessment of a scheme we will work with DPIPWE to see if allocations are available in a particular water source. I would say the majority, in fact, all of the tranche 3 schemes are either dependent on or are backed up by Hydro storages. It is then a matter of having a water supply arrangement with Hydro and they make an assessment about whether they can allocate that. The total allocation that we have in water entitlements is a 133 000 megalitres. Not all of that is backed by extractions from rivers.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Kneebone. To deliver the tranche 3 schemes in their entirety what is the total volume water allocations that you will require? Of that total volume, what proportion have you already secured allocations for and what volume remains outstanding?

Mr BARNETT - Thank you, that relates to a very long way into the future if you are looking at all of the tranche 3 schemes. I will check if the CEO can assist the member.

Mr KNEEBONE - I will have to take some of that on notice but in general terms the Don project is 4750 megalitres split between allocations out of Paloona Dam and Lake Barrington. We would extract it out of the Forth River but it is backed by supplies out of Paloona Dam. The Northern Midlands is totally coming out of Great Lake via Poatina Power Station and it is a total of 25 500. The Tamar, as I said earlier, approximately 22 000 megalitres is our working assumption, again, coming out of Trevallyn Dam, above the Trevallyn Power Station. Sassafras Wesley Vale, we would be using our current water entitlement out of the Mersey River supplemented by releases from Parangana when the river is on cease to take, so, a water supply agreement from Hydro from Parangana.

For the South East Integration Project, we are looking at a range of options there. We have existing entitlements out of the River Derwent which TasWater currently utilises. We would seek to take those back. We will seek to find other allocations - if there are any - that are under-utilised. That scheme if it is taken out of the Derwent would be supplemented by agreement, by releases from Lake Meadowbank. We are also examining options to take it out of Meadowbank directly, which would be a negotiation with Hydro, or further up in the catchment above somewhere like Lake Binney or somewhere like that.

In toto, if we were to build the schemes at their current assessed capacity - remember some of these are conceptual - it would double the existing, it would be approximately 133 000 additional megalitres of irrigation water that would be supplied across the state.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Mr Kneebone. In a submission made to the Rural Water Use Strategy process in June 2020, Tas Irrigation stated, 'there is a high reliance on Hydro storages for the balance of the tranche 3 program'. We just heard evidence of that and currently there is no certainty over Tas Irrigation achieving access to the volumes of water required to support a number of significant developments. Is this still an accurate statement?

Mr KNEEBONE - Yes, it is still accurate in that we haven't concluded negotiations with them. We have very positive ongoing relationships with Hydro and before we progress anything beyond a preferred option, we have at least, if not a formal agreement, an in principle agreement in respect that the volumes have been assessed as whether or not they can reliably be provided.

Mr BARNETT - If I can add to that, it is fair to say they have a very good relationship with Hydro Tasmania, and there's every expectation that that relationship will remain very positive and collaborative. Those issues and challenges that face both Hydro Tas and Tas Irrigation they work through together and they get to a mutually agreed outcome that provides benefits both ways.