Victorian Government’s response to the ENRC Inquiry into rural drainage
The Environment and Natural Resource Committee of State Parliament inquiry into rural drainage in Victoria was ordered following the extensive floods of 2010, 2011 and 2012, which lead to community concern about the management, performance and maintenance of Victoria's rural drainage system.
A response to the inquiry supports most of ENRC's 32 recommendations either full or in-principle.
The management of rural drainage is being improved by clarifying the organisations responsible for management and maintenance.
Rural drainage schemes are important in reducing the impact of heavy rain on rural Victorian communities. They service approximately 1,000,000 hectares of agricultural land across the state.
Drainage schemes were not a priority for rural Victorian communities during the drought.
This, combined with institutional changes, meant many rural drainage scheme management arrangements lapsed or became unclear until the floods made them a priority once again.
Currently, the area of rural drainage management is muddied, with both local government and Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) having a role, depending on the area.
The ENRC inquiry identified the need for a clearer management structure to make it easier for communities to maintain their schemes.
Local community involvement is central to the success of any drainage scheme, and local landholders and drainage committees will continue to have a lead role.
Councils will continue to be responsible for managing and maintaining local rural drainage schemes, where the community requests their assistance. This complements their current responsibilities for operating and maintaining drainage services for towns and their road networks.
Community drainage committees will work through their local council to develop management plans for rural drainage schemes and, where relevant, councils will involve government agencies such as VicRoads.
In addition, management plans will be flexible to suit the different needs of people served by very small to large drainage schemes.
This approach will empower communities to make decisions about the level of rural drainage services they want and are willing to pay for, just as they do with flood levees.
CMAs will still play a role in rural drainage by regulating the effects of drainage schemes on waterways and wetlands.
Where CMAs have been managing rural drainage, the arrangements will be reviewed and the schemes will be transitioned across to local councils where appropriate.
There will be no change to the role of Melbourne Water in managing drainage within Melbourne, and VicRoads in managing their drainage assets state-wide.
Rural drainage benefits landowners through improved agricultural production. Maintenance of rural drainage schemes will be paid for by those that benefit from the scheme.
Where landholders decide they cannot justify the ongoing costs of running drainage schemes, they will not be actively managed or maintained.