Chat with us, powered by LiveChatLand buyback scheme heads $21m flood package

Land buyback scheme heads $21m flood package

Flood-hit farmers near Kerang will be able to sell their land to the state government under a voluntary buyback and compensation scheme, the centrepiece of a $21 million flood package to be announced today by the Baillieu government.

Up to $12.3 million has been made available to buy land at risk of flooding or to pay compensation to farmers who do not sell but who have flood covenants placed on their land.

The buyback program will run for one year from July and be a significant part of flood-related spending in the state government's first budget.

The measures are part of the Active Floodplain Restoration Project, which aims to ''create extra flood storage and reduce the impact of floods'' in the area by reinstating floodplains.

The flood project is also likely to consider whether some of the low-lying land north-west of Kerang should be bought by government and permanently added to the public land estate.

Some land bought under the buyback could be sold in future.

Money will also be spent repairing levees on the edge of rivers and creeks in the district ($3.5 million), and on flood recovery farm planning and case management ($5 million) for flood-hit farmers in a number of irrigation districts.

The small communities of Benjeroop and Murrabit West, situated between the Murray River and the Murray Valley Highway, were among the region’s worst hit by Victoria's January floods.

Levees built decades ago to protect the district were broken in many places, allowing water from the Loddon River, Barr Creek and other waterways to flood farms and more than 25 houses.

The floodwater was so vast that it stayed on some farms for more than two months. Water remains in some places, but is now mostly gone. At Benjeroop farmers lost crops, machinery and months of production. Water and Agriculture Minister Peter Walsh said the new flood package would build upon earlier research done on the Lower Loddon floodplain.

''What the community has been saying to me and to the Premier when we've been up there at various times is that there needs to be changes so it doesn't happen the same again,'' he told The Age.

''Particularly if you look at the Loddon River - the amount of water that passes under the bridges at Kerang physically cannot fit under the bridge at Benjeroop in a big flood. So it puts a lot of pressure on all the levee banks that are there and subsequently there are breakouts and flooding.''

A special taskforce chaired by the Department of Primary Industries' Neil McBeath will define the boundaries of the ''active floodplain'', the area in which landholders will be eligible to apply for the buyback.

Mr Walsh said the buyback and floodplain restoration presented ''the opportunity to have a clean piece of paper and redesign some of the floodway systems. And then put the land back to other landholders to farm if it's outside the floodways, or to have opportunity grazing if it is in a floodway.''

Flood covenants would be placed on properties only with the agreement of the owner, who would receive financial compensation, he said.

The arrangement would mean that the property was not ''flood protected'' and the owner acknowledged that it could act as a ''floodway'' and be flooded.

A voluntary buyback had worked successfully in East Gippsland after flooding in the 1990s, he said.

Source: The Age