Overview of the Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy

The Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy (the Strategy) has been developed to help landholders make choices about how they manage water logging on agricultural land to improve agricultural productivity in dryland areas while managing the environmental and cultural impacts of drainage.

The aims of the Strategy are to:

  • Clarify the roles, responsibilities and obligations for landholders and government agencies to manage dryland rural drainage
  • Rebuild the capability of landholders and government agencies to manage dryland rural drainage to support agricultural productivity
  • Simplify previously complex and confusing regulations and approval processes, and in doing so clarify obligations on landholders to protect and enhance their local environment and to respect the cultural values of Aboriginal Victorians when conducting future drainage works

Manage priority waterways affected by rural drainage to provide cultural and environmental benefits. The Strategy is accompanied by a Drainage Resource Kit, which will be a living document providing essential guidance and information to inform landholders decision making.

Consultation

Following the release of the draft Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy in October 2017, we invited the community to have a say on the draft Strategy by:

  • Attending workshops held at various locations across Victoria. Across Victoria, 160 people attended nine community and stakeholder workshops to contribute their views on the draft Strategy.
  • Making written submissions, including via the Engage Vic website. Feedback through 49 written submissions captured comments on all aspects of the draft Strategy. You can view the public submissions at the DELWP website.
  • Direct discussions with the project team. Those who opted to contribute to the consultation through direct one-on-one engagement included environment groups, landholders and councils.

The consultation period closed on 20 December 2017. Stakeholders strongly supported the intent to deliver a Strategy and offered a range of views and suggestions on all aspects of the draft Strategy. This table outlines what has changed because of community feedback and how the changes improve the management of dryland rural drainage.

Stakeholders strongly supported the intent to deliver a Strategy and offered a range of views and suggestions on all aspects of the draft Strategy. This feedback focussed on requests for further clarity on roles and responsibilities; clarification of policy positions and request for more information. The majority of requests and feedback were able to be accommodated in the final Strategy. The following is a summary of the key improvements:

Topic

Changes made from draft to final Strategy

Why this is an improvement

Landholder obligations around dryland rural drainage

Further information on roles and responsibilities provided in Chapter 3 of the Strategy. A Drainage Resource Kit also reiterates the roles and responsibilities.

Lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities was one of the key challenges a variety of stakeholders identified.

The Drainage Resource Kit will available to landholders and agencies to support the launch of the final Strategy. It will provide all the tools and templates to help landholders to understand their obligations and provide clear pathways on options to manage rural drainage.

Greater role for Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs)

The draft Strategy identified Councils as the lead for rural drainage with CMA’s providing support to Councils and landholders. In the final Strategy, Councils will provide administrative support, including collecting agreed fees where relevant, while CMAs have a new responsibility to facilitate rural drainage management plans.

Feedback from stakeholders revealed a range of views on the most appropriate lead agency. Through consultation it was determined that CMAs are best placed to facilitate rural drainage management plans. This new role is part of the clear directions and processes set out in the Strategy for management of rural drainage at the local level.

Recognition of regional variability

The final Strategy includes greater recognition of local contexts and the variety of drainage issues across the state.

Some $4.9 million is being invested that will support 11 pilot projects across the state. The pilots will address the different regional rural drainage issues; increase local capability to deliver the strategy; and support landholders to prioritise any required on-ground works.

The Strategy now clearly recognises that flexibility in approaches to dryland rural drainage management is essential to ensuring good outcomes across the state.

It also commits to pilot studies of the Strategy’s new arrangements in a variety of circumstances across the State. The 11 pilot studies will provide important learnings and outcomes that will be included in future versions of the Drainage Resource Kit.

A clearer vision

The vision statement for the Strategy has been simplified to focus on empowering landholders as they improve their management of dryland rural drainage.

This helps the Strategy to align with stakeholder expectations and needs and provides a clearer statement of the role it will play.

Balancing agricultural productivity and the environment

The final Strategy retains support for agricultural productivity while being more explicit on the importance of balancing this with environmental values.

Three of the pilot projects will focus on restoration of old drainage sites for cultural values.

This change addressed concerns from some environmental stakeholders that the draft strategy promoted agricultural productivity over protection of the environment. Environmental stakeholders are comfortable with the balance achieved in the final strategy.

Further guidance on cultural heritage

The final Strategy includes:

  • An overview of the innovative approach to engaging with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians and pathways to developing the policies
  • A commitment to develop guidance on cultural heritage
  • clarified roles and responsibilities on cultural heritage
  • a pilot project around options to develop a voluntary cultural heritage management plan.

Stakeholders supported the inclusion of cultural heritage issues in the Strategy but identified a clear need for additional guidance on how to manage these issues.

Further guidance on dispute resolution

The final Strategy sets out the options to manage dispute resolution in a range of scenarios, as stakeholders identified this as a significant gap in the draft. The Drainage Resource Kit provides further guidance on dispute resolution for landholders.

The Strategy envisages that future drainage arrangements are likely to be individual landholders or agreements between smaller groups of landholders. A potential consequence of this is more possible disputes. Providing this information in the Strategy and kit helps landholders feel confident in their ability to negotiate new arrangements.

Further guidance on impacts of climate change

The Rural Drainage Kit contains an innovative and world first landholder decision support tool to aid landholders to consider investment in rural drainage under a range of climate scenarios.

Climate change will have a significant impact on water systems, including dryland rural drainage. The range of information on potential impacts available is vast and many landholders are unsure how to access the best information or factor it into decision making. This tool will aid landholders to make long-term investments.

This tool will also contribute important lessons to future Adaption Action Plans under the Climate Change Act 2017.

Pilot Projects

A number of piolet projects are currently underway across the state, with a total investment from DELWP of $4.9 million. For information on these projects, including investment amounts, milestones and outcomes, please go to the DELWP website.

Draft Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy

The draft Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy was released in October 2017 and proposed a series of policies and actions designed to enable landholders to choose how to manage their drainage and drainage systems into the future.

The community was invited to have its say on the proposals in the draft Strategy and to contribute to setting the new contemporary arrangements for rural drainage, supported by clear roles and responsibilities.

A range of stakeholders contributed to the development of the draft Strategy. Four consistent themes that emerged from those consultations were the need for:

The draft Strategy proposed a series of policies and actions to address these themes. The public release of this draft Strategy provided an opportunity for the broader community to provide comments on the proposed approach and to contribute to the final Strategy.

Consultation on the Draft Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy closed on 20th December 2017.