Farmer water win
Awestern Victorian pipedwater jigsaw appears set to expand with Ararat district farms and businesses next in line to benefit from greater security of supply.
The State Government has announced plans to spend $32-million on an $85-million East Grampians Water Supply Project and has now called on the Federal Government to provide its share.
But the Federal Government, while backing the concept of securing water supply to agricultural areas in Ararat, Northern Grampians and Pyrenees municipalities, insists that it can do little until it sees a State Government proposal.
Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan said a formal Victorian proposal was essential in gaining Commonwealth support.
“The Federal Government has not received a proposal from the State Government for the East Grampians Water Supply Project,” he said.
“The Federal Government has repeatedly asked the State Government to provide a proposal under the National Water Infrastructure Fund. They have decided to play politics instead.
“It is terribly disappointing for farm- ers and businesses that need a secure water supply that the State Government has failed to submit a proposal while announcing the project. I again call on Premier Daniel Andrews to submit a proposal.”
The State Government is pushing ahead with its side of the project through its 2018-19 budget. Regardless of the process, its announcement now places pressure on the Federal Government to follow suit.
Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville joined farmers and community leaders at Mt Langi Ghiran Vineyard on Monday to announce the promise.
Ms Neville said farms and busi- nesses would benefit from a more secure water supply, which would reduce operating costs and improve productivity.
She said the project, ‘importantly’, would also give farms and businesses more certainty about their future, allowing them to make long-term decisions including planting more crops, buying more stock or investing in equipment.
The project involves construction of 1600 kilometres of stock and domestic pipeline to provide water for up to 530,000 hectares. Its purpose is to improve water security for property owners reliant on farm dams and water carting and in the process support regional economies and jobs.
It also represents an addition to an expanding western Victorian piped water grid that already involves Wimmera-mallee and Northern Mallee pipelines, the start of work for an $80.6-million South West Loddon Pipeline in Victoria’s north central and investigations into piped supply for the south-west Wimmera.
Ms Neville announced plans for a feasibility study into the pipeline during a 2016 visit to the region as part of a broad response to drought.
Ms Neville said in a prepared statement on Monday the Federal Government now needed to ‘step up and provide its share of the funding for the project, to ensure it can proceed’.
“These communities have been doing it tough in recent years due to drought,” she said.
“That’s why we’re delivering the water security these landholders, farmers and towns need and have been calling for.
“This project will give local farmers the water security they desperately need – which supports jobs and means farmers no longer have to cart water during dry periods.”
Victorian Coalition politicians, meanwhile, joined Mr Tehan in heavy criticism of the government’s tactics surrounding the project.
Opposition water representative Steph Ryan and Louise Staley, Ripon, and Emma Kealy, Lowan, all came out strongly in support of the project but accused the government of sitting on its hands and only responding to the need of piped supply in an effort to win votes.
Ms Ryan said if the government was serious about securing water for east Grampians communities, it would have sought the money needed from the Federal Government.
“The government had every opportunity to ensure this project would be fully funded but Lisa Neville hasn’t even made an application,” she said. Ms Staley said the project was of vital importance.
“It is time for Premier Andrews to behave collaboratively with Canberra for the benefit of the region and Victoria,” she said.
Ms Kealy said landowners had been carting water for stock and crop spraying, which was both expensive and time consuming.
“Funding for this project should have been on Labor’s radar long before now,” she said.
“It’s only been since the strong community campaign that the government has taken this seriously.”
Pipeline construction is scheduled to start at the end of next year and the project is likely to take about three years to complete.
While east Grampians communities assess latest developments, contractor Mitchell Water turned the first sod on phase 2.1 of the South West Loddon Pipeline at Inglewood.
The State Government is providing $40-million, the Federal Government $20-million, Gwmwater $15-million and customers and Coliban Water the balance for the north central project.
The latest phase of works will involve the first of 1300 kilometres of pipe spanning 2900 square kilometres and provide water from the Grampians headworks system to the farm gate of more than 600 rural properties.
WEARY WARBIRD: Pilot Nick Caldwell wheels Wirraway A20-722 across the sky above the west Wimmera town of Nhill while navigating the aircraft to its final resting place. The Wirraway, a rare flying example of one of the planes the RAAF used at its Nhill...