Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

CMA misses out on water efficiency grants

Goulburn Valley irrigators have been left wondering about the basis for water efficiency grants in the latest round of funding.

GEOFF ADAMS December 18, 2012 12:00am

Goulburn Valley farmers have missed out on millions of dollars of on-farm efficiency grants in the latest round of Commonwealth funding.

Although $100million was distributed in the third round, the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority did not receive any of the $50million it applied for.

The money goes towards upgrading infrastructure on farms, with half of the water savings kept by the irrigator and half going towards the environment.

Fruit Growers Victoria received $5.5million.

The CMA is going to Canberra this week to find out why it didn’t get one dollar in this round.

CMA chairman Peter Ryan said the Farm Water Program consortium was very disappointed.

‘‘It is disappointing that we will miss the opportunity for this round of funding to continue the great work in aligning to the modernisation of the distribution system led by the Goulburn-Murray Water Strategic Connections Program,’’ Mr Ryan said.

He said if the Farm Water Program’s round three application had been successful it had the potential to save 28Gl of water, with half the water savings transferred to the Commonwealth Government for environmental purposes and the remaining contributing to regional growth.

Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh also expressed his disappointment.

‘‘These proponents have a good track record of delivering value for money, as demonstrated in previous rounds,’’ Mr Walsh said.

‘‘The Victorian Government has advocated throughout the basin plan development process that the on-farm efficiency program needs to be done in a strategic way in order to capitalise on the significant investments that are being made to modernise Victoria’s irrigation systems.

‘‘We will continue to lobby the Commonwealth to ensure that there is a strategic framework leading future on-farm efficiency investments.’’

Irrigation Efficiency Partners project director Kaye Dalton said farmer demand for the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program showed the scheme was working.

While her partnership missed out on its bid for irrigation works in NSW, it was awarded $14.1million to complete projects in northern Victoria.

‘‘We expect to have 15 to 20 projects in the Goulburn, Loddon and Murray Valleys,’’ said Ms Dalton, who is based in Griffith.

She said the irrigation projects were clustered around Echuca, Kerang, Shepparton and along the Murray River.

‘‘We didn’t get our NSW projects up; we were surprised and a little bit disappointed, but of 12 applicants only five were chosen and we were really pleased to be one of them.’’

Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia received $29million for projects largely in the Murrumbidgee Valley, and the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resource Management Board received $36.5million.

South Australian-based water broker and consultancy company Waterfind successfully applied for projects totalling $13.5million in the Victorian Goulburn and Murray regions as well as the NSW Murray and South Australia.

Waterfind chief executive Tom Rooney said about 30 projects covered dairying, cropping, pastures and rice growing.

This is the first time Waterfind has applied to handle the efficiency projects and may be the first time a water broking business has become a delivery partner.

Mr Rooney said the program would be run by a special projects division of the company.

The federal department administering the grants said there would be a fourth round of funding to distribute the remaining $100million in the program.

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