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Waiting game goes on for irrigators

Irrigators in the Macorna area learned a little more about what is in store for their region under Goulburn-Murray Water’s Strategic Connection Plan at a meeting last month.

SOPHIE BRUNS January 1, 2013 4:10am

Irrigators in the Macorna area learned a little more about what is in store for their region under Goulburn-Murray Water’s Strategic Connection Plan at a meeting last month.

Young farmer Robert Grills said it was not before time.

‘‘This is the meeting we should have had about four meetings ago,’’ Mr Grills said.

‘‘It has been very frustrating watching other farmers who have already been connected to the backbone move forward with programs like the farm water program, while all we can do is sit back and watch.’’

The region (Loddon Valley LV SCP 04) consists of 32 properties which together hold 1851 high reliability water shares.

There is 7.5km of non-backbone channel with 35 irrigation outlets and 26 structures located on it. The cost to replace these assets is estimated to be about $3.18million with $1.89million to be spent on channels, $1million on structures and $290000 on outlets.

About 32 per cent of customers provide 84 per cent of the revenue for the area to G-MW.

G-MW aims to reconfigure all properties through voluntary connections agreements. There will be some extension work to the backbone channel, while in other areas it could be reduced.

The water authority has conceded there could be a small number of cases that may require non-voluntary reconfiguration. There is also an option in place for irrigators to exit irrigation completely.

Some properties in the area have already been connected to the backbone through the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project, but the majority have been playing the frustrating game of waiting.

‘‘It has been a very long and slow process but I feel like we could be starting to finally get somewhere,’’ Mr Grills said.

He is unsure what will happen to the 320ha block he irrigates for cropping and hay production.

‘‘At one stage I was looking to purchase the neighbouring property and expand my operation but the continued delays left me uncertain about what direction to move in. Maybe now I might be able to move forward one way or the other.

‘‘You just can’t afford to put your head in the sand any more. We just have to get on with it now and look at what options we have for us.’’

Mr Grills said his biggest worry was commodity prices.

‘‘It doesn’t matter where we get our water from if we can’t afford to pay for it. There’s no point having a whizz-bang system if irrigation water is too expensive for us to buy.’’

Mixed farmer Wayne Wishart is also concerned about the future. He is part of a family-run sheep, cattle and cropping business on 810ha.

‘‘I just want to know what is going to happen; we are in limbo,’’ Mr Wishart said.

‘‘I am one of four people on a spur channel and I have no idea what is going to happen to that. There may be an opportunity to get bigger and buy adjacent farms. It could work in our favour, who knows? I’m also worried that it might cost us a lot more to irrigate in the future.’’

The Macorna meeting was part of a series G-MW is hosting across the Goulburn Murray irrigation district as it progressively develops strategic connections plans for 180 individual Strategic Connection Plan Areas.

The plans will include future water delivery arrangements for individual landowners not currently connected to the backbone channel network.

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