Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Diverters miss out on irrigation funding

Irrigators who pump from rivers and streams have been deliberately left out of the Victorian Government’s $100million Farm Modernisation funding.

GEOFF ADAMS January 7, 2014 4:01am

John Williams on his Torumbarry property.

Irrigators who pump from rivers and streams have been deliberately left out of the Victorian Government’s $100million Farm Modernisation funding.

Diverters have been disappointed to discover they weren’t eligible for funding to upgrade their irrigation systems as the money was intended only for connections to the backbone channels in the Goulburn-Murray Water region.

Torrumbarry irrigator John ‘‘Snow’’ Williams has told authorities how disgusted he was to discover he could not apply for the money.

He has plans drawn up for upgrading to a pipe and riser system which would save about 80Ml of water on his dairy farm.

‘‘Each time Victorian money is available, private diverters are discriminated against and treated very badly; it makes you feel as if you are not farming in Victoria.’’

He has been told by Victorian authorities that he has been eligible for past rounds of Commonwealth funding and for the future, but he has been unsatisfied with the explanations.

He says the decision to exclude diverters is discrimination.

Water Minister Peter Walsh said the $100million Victorian Farm Modernisation Project was negotiated with the Commonwealth to ensure there were opportunities in the future for irrigators who will reach connections agreements in the later stages of that project.

‘‘The VFMP funding agreement has three opportunities between 2013-2019 for irrigators to put forward bids for their on-farm works,’’ Mr Walsh told Country News.

‘‘There is $30million being allocated in this first opportunity.

‘‘Diverters were eligible to apply in previous rounds of the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Programs. Goulburn Broken CMA has also applied to the Commonwealth for Round 4 funding and, if successful, this too will be open to bids by diverters.’’

Mr Williams, who pumps from the Murray River, said he failed to get funding in an earlier Commonwealth round but has re-applied for money to make his on-farm irrigation system more efficient.

‘‘From when we start pumping it takes about 12 hours to get water onto the bays. With a pipe and riser system it would be almost immediate.’’

Mr Williams points out that while he can’t claim money from the Victorian fund, his neighbour, who draws water from a G-MW channel, can.

VFF water council chairman Richard Anderson said he would be addressing inequities in funding for on-farm irrigation upgrades this year.

He said he was concerned that the Commonwealth money would dry up in the future, leaving some irrigators without the opportunity to obtain funding in the latter part of foodbowl modernisation.

The Victorian program helps irrigators achieve water savings by funding upgrades to farm irrigation systems, and successful participants agree to return a share of the water savings to the Commonwealth.

Water savings realised under the project will help Victoria meet its remaining commitment to return water to the environment under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

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