Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Stakes upped in battle for modernisation dollars

Irrigators may have to give up more than half of their water entitlements to have their farm revamped under the next round of the Federal Government’s On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Project.

CATHY WALKER December 26, 2012 5:00am

Irrigators will have to decide how much water they can part with in return for government infrastructure upgrades.

The consortium led by Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority did not win funding in round three of the scheme despite passing all five merit criteria, with a number of those acknowledged as being above average.

Authority chief executive Chris Norman went to Canberra last week and came home a little the wiser, if no happier, after bureaucrats from SEWPAC gave high credit to the project management track record of GBCMA.

‘‘It’s been a very hard process to understand, but this time they gave us a bit more information,’’ Mr Norman said.

But the bottom line was ‘‘to increase our competitiveness it would have been necessary for us to increase the percentage of the water savings transferred out of the region to the Commonwealth, beyond the 50 per cent proposed’’.

‘‘It’s an issue irrigators will have to grapple with now,’’ Mr Norman said.

‘‘In developing a future application, we will be seeking feedback from our regional irrigators as to whether they are prepared to increase the proportion of water savings transferred.’’

He said the GBCMA’s bid had been ranked in order with other bids, according to the Commonwealth’s value for money assessment process, after which it drew a line when the available pool of money — $100million — had been allocated to the higher-ranked bids.

That appears to mean the more water given up, the better deal the Commonwealth perceives it is getting, but Mr Norman said the SEWPAC officials ‘‘didn’t share with us how they determine value for money’’.

Mr Norman said in pulling the round three bid together there had been extensive consultation with irrigator groups and individuals including telephone interviews.

‘‘The criticism we get is that we don’t talk to all irrigators,’’ Mr Norman said.

‘‘There will always be some irrigators who say ‘well you didn’t ask me’ but we did consult all the various irrigator groups and did a phone around of some individuals. Fifty per cent seemed to be what they were comfortable with.’’

Mr Norman said the consortium proposal was based on a reasonable cost share between irrigators and government.

‘‘The consortium supported the irrigators’ views in trying to balance regional development objectives, production benefits and environmental gains, to the amount of water leaving the region,’’ he said.

VFF water council chairman Richard Anderson said he was disappointed the GBCMA missed out on any funding in this round.

Mr Anderson said the CMA and its partners had good knowledge of the Foodbowl Modernisation Project and were well-placed to ensure the projects could be co-ordinated.

‘‘It seems strange they didn’t get any money.’’

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