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Southern Rural Water welcomes the Minister for Water’s focus on the health of the waterways in the Boundary Creek and Big Swamp area, which will see SRW request Barwon Water for a remediation plan, under Section 78 of the Water Act 1989.

The Minister has today issued a media release explaining the reasons for her intervention. https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/remediation-plan-for-otway-waterways/

Clinton Rodda, Managing Director, Southern Rural Water, said this would allow SRW to consider all aspects of the proposed remediation plan, and to ensure it was legally enforceable.

“As the Minister’s delegate for regulating groundwater use in this area, due to the seriousness of this issue, we felt it was important to consult with the Minister on the approach to remediation and the process for the license assessment,” he said.

The assessment of the remediation plan is independent of the licence renewal application process, although both can run in parallel.

The Minister has also applied conditions for the assessment of the remediation plan, including independent expert review.

Southern Rural Water has drafted the notice and is seeking legal advice before finalising it for issue. It is likely to ask Barwon Water to propose their remediation plan, and the success criteria on which it will be judged, within six months. The notice will also formalises that Barwon Water continues with its voluntary decision not to operate the bore field, prior to remediation.

Further, when the licence renewal application has been lodged, Southern Rural Water intends to establish a community reference group of key stakeholders, interest groups and individuals to assist with the public consultation process during the assessment. A terms of reference is being drafted for the group and a timeline can be finalised when Barwon Water has lodged its application for renewal. In the meantime, anyone wishing to participate in the reference group can contact SRW on 1300 139 510.

Southern Rural Water’s engagement process will include the community reference group, open house type forums, a period for public submissions to be made and an application hearing.   An independent expert technical panel will provide advice on both Barwon Water’s licence renewal application and any submissions received. The process can be confirmed once SRW has received Barwon Water’s licence renewal application.

The Minister has also asked that SRW undertake further work with DELWP to determine whether a change to the overall permissible consumptive volume for the Gerangamete Groundwater Management Area should be reduced, in order to determine what future extraction is sustainable.