Nationals back Greens on VicWater


From The Land

Water policy has created divisions in Victoria’s conservative political parties after a federal Nationals MP opposed a dam in Gippsland for being “environmentally unsustainable”.

The comments are another embarrassment for the state Liberal-National Coalition because its leader, Ted Baillieu, has repeatedly said “all options” for new dams would be considered as part of his water policy for the 2010 election.

Nationals member for Gippsland Darren Chester said he opposed any proposal to dam the region’s Mitchell River, for water to Melbourne, because of the potential harm to the Gippsland Lakes.

“I’m opposed to further diversions of water from Gippsland streams to Melbourne.

“I believe that Melbourne must invest more in water recycling and storm water harvesting,” he said.

Earlier this month, former Liberal upper house leader Phil Davis also called for Gippsland to be excluded as a location for a dam, saying capturing more water was unacceptable because of the ecological impact.

Mr Chester’s comments are awkward for the Coalition because he is a former chief of staff to Victorian Nationals leader Peter Ryan.

Responding to Mr Davis’ comments, Mr Baillieu declined to rule out a dam on the Mitchell River, saying the Opposition would consider water storages, along with recycling and harvesting stormwater.

“We are looking at all options available to secure Melbourne’s water supply,” he said.

Yesterday, Mr Baillieu repeated this position, putting him at odds with Mr Chester’s view.

Mr Ryan told The Age he welcomed the fact that Mr Chester had a point of view, but he also did not rule out a dam on the Mitchell River.

“We will make an announcement on water policy as the election approaches,” Mr Ryan said.

In a recent media statement, Mr Chester also said he was unaware of plans by any political party to dam the Mitchell River.

He has accused the Government of provoking a dams debate to divert attention from its controversial plans to pipe water to Melbourne from the Goulburn Valley.

But Water Minister Tim Holding seized on Mr Chester’s comments, saying the Opposition had been caught saying one thing to one community and the opposite to another.

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