Wa­ter visit snub

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE - By Ge­off Adams

A key fed­eral par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee in­ves­ti­gat­ing ir­ri­ga­tion ef­fi­ciency will not be tak­ing pub­lic hear­ings in north­ern Vic­to­ria, to the be­wil­der­ment of farm­ers and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

The House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives agri­cul­ture and wa­ter re­sources inquiry, set up at the re­quest of Fed­eral Wa­ter Min­is­ter Barn­aby Joyce, will not be com­ing to Aus­tralia’s most in­ten­sive ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict.

The com­mit­tee has sat in Toowoomba in Queens­land, Narrabri in NSW, Har­vey in Western Aus­tralia, Can­berra and Mel­bourne — but has avoided com­ing to the area where $2 bil­lion is be­ing spent on mod­ernising ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture.

Nar­ing ir­ri­ga­tor Barry Croke can’t be­lieve the com­mit­tee has vis­ited much smaller ir­ri­ga­tion re­gions and snubbed north­ern Vic­to­ria.

‘‘They’re quite minis­cule ar­eas by com­par­i­son,’’ Mr Croke said.

He was also dis­ap­pointed there was no sub­mis­sion from DEWLP or from Goul­burn-Mur­ray Wa­ter.

Fed­eral Mem­ber for Mur­ray Damian Drum said he was dis­ap­pointed the com­mit­tee wasn’t com­ing to the area, be­cause farm­ers would have been able to more ac­tively con­trib­ute.

He said he had been told by the com­mit­tee that G-MW had re­fused to host a visit to the re­gion.

He had of­fered to or­gan­ise host­ing him­self, but other ar­range­ments had al­ready been made and the com­mit­tee’s itin­er­ary (in­clud­ing the Mel­bourne visit) had been locked into place.

‘‘I was sur­prised when the an­swer came back,’’ Mr Drum said, in view of the amount of mod­erni­sa­tion work go­ing on in the re­gion.

‘‘I would imag­ine the re­sponse came from the Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment as G-MW would have sought con­fir­ma­tion from them.’’

Com­mit­tee chair Rick Wilson, from Western Aus­tralia, con­firmed there was no plan to visit north­ern Vic­to­ria and it was not an over­sight.

‘‘The com­mit­tee did con­sider at length vis­it­ing north­ern Vic­to­ria, how­ever, with only three sub­mis­sions re­ceived from that re­gion, the ex­pense and mem­bers’ time could not be jus­ti­fied,’’ Mr Wilson said.

‘‘We took the next best op­tion and in­vited those wit­nesses to Mel­bourne.’’

He said G-MW de­clined to make a sub­mis­sion, de­spite sev­eral re­quests.

‘‘The or­gan­i­sa­tion would not ap­pear at a pub­lic hear­ing or host us for in­spec­tions in the re­gion.’’

Mr Wilson said they re­lied on the wa­ter provider to host in­spec­tions of their ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture.

VFF Wa­ter Coun­cil chair Richard An­der­son said he was bewil­dered the com­mit­tee was not com­ing to a re­gion which was such a sig­nif­i­cant part of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin.

‘‘How many ir­ri­ga­tors are in Mel­bourne?’’ Mr An­der­son asked.

State Mem­ber for Shep­par­ton Suzanna Sheed also ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment the com­mit­tee could not come to the re­gion, as the Goul­burn Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion dis­trict was such a ma­jor ir­ri­ga­tion area.

She said the re­gion had re­ceived a con­sid­er­able amount of gov­ern­ment fund­ing for wa­ter ef­fi­ciency pro­grams, as well as the $2 bil­lion Con­nec­tions project to up­grade ir­ri­ga­tion in­fra­struc­ture.

Ms Sheed said she tele­phoned the com­mit­tee of­fice sev­eral months ago to in­vite them here.

In a writ­ten state­ment, G-MW said it was not asked by the inquiry to host a visit of its mem­bers to north­ern Vic­to­ria and did not make a sub­mis­sion to this inquiry.

‘‘G-MW has and will of course con­tinue to host mem­bers of par­lia­ment, par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees, in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives and other rel­e­vant or­gan­i­sa­tions, from Aus­tralia or over­seas, who seek ap­pro­pri­ate in­sight into our ir­ri­ga­tion op­er­a­tions and up­grades,’’ the au­thor­ity said.

‘‘Should the Wa­ter Use Ef­fi­ciency in Aus­tralian Agri­cul­ture par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee make such a re­quest, G-MW would be pleased to host a fu­ture visit.’’

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