Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Modernisation Water complaints

Several Stanhope dairy farmers are frustrated by progress with modernisation on their properties.

CATHY WALKER April 1, 2014 4:00am

Jack and John Cockroft

Is anyone listening? Frustration spilled over last week when dairy farmer and Stanhope Football Club coach Brenton Gray was, in his words, ‘‘left hanging on the line’’ for six minutes when he called Goulburn-Murray Water in a futile attempt to speak to managing director Gavin Hanlon and state his case.

Mr Gray and his parents Noel and Gayle breed Red Holsteins and milk 260 cows on 283ha near Stanhope but their irrigation has been thrown into chaos since the backbone channel was modernised.

Now if Mr Gray orders water and the channel is low, the water in the farm’s interior channel goes backwards and makes the wheel run in reverse.

‘‘All my water that I have paid for is running back into the channel,’’ Mr Gray said.

‘‘It’s happened every time we have watered in the last eight to 10 months. Every time I call G-MW to complain and get something done, nothing happens. I just get fobbed off.’’

Hence his attempt to get to the G-MW boss.

‘‘Now I’m looking for compensation too. We’ve lost our lucerne because it hasn’t been watered properly, and we’ve stuffed a 10-inch pump.’’

John Cockcroft and his son Jack are near neighbours of the Gray family and have issues of their own with the G-MW Connections project.

They have come to Mr Gray’s farm this morning for an opportunity to put their case too, because in John’s words, ‘‘no-one at G-MW wants to know, they just keep fobbing us off’’.

The Cockcrofts milk 200 cows on 64ha at Stanhope and Jack has a 283ha outblock at the nub of their issue.

They’re not looking for compensation: they just want water for their cows.

If that sounds simple, the more they speak, it appears not to be.

The outblock is on a channel that was decommissioned and in the process the Cockcrofts signed a contract with G-MW to have a two-inch pipe laid three kilometres to provide stock and domestic water.

‘‘It’s (the modernisation program) a fantastic idea — they just haven’t done it,’’ John Cockcroft said.

‘‘It’s just too slow; it’s been going on for three years. We have a contract here that said the work would be completed in six months — that was a year-and-a-half ago.’’

The Cockcrofts said in the interim, part of the channel that was decommissioned was opened up again to provide water while another neighbour ‘‘in the same boat’’ had been having water trucked in by G-MW.

‘‘It’s scary how much money these people have wasted over the years,’’ John Cockcroft said.

A G-MW spokeswoman said the authority’s preference was to redirect calls made by irrigators to Mr Hanlon to senior management staff who had more knowledge of the specific issues.

She said the head of customer service, Greg Shannon, would meet Mr Gray on his farm this week and discuss some options.

‘‘We are not really sure what the problem is,’’ she said.

Mr Gray has a video on his phone of the wheel sending water back into the backbone channel that should help explain his case.

The Cockcrofts, the spokeswoman said, were notified recently that the S&D pipe had been ‘‘mostly completed’’. An element of the remaining work was waiting on planning approval from Shire Of Campaspe.

‘‘They don’t think it will be much longer.’’

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