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Murray Irrigation receives $29m to deliver projects

Murray Irrigation Limited has received $29 million to deliver on-farm irrigation efficiency projects but say it falls well short of its requested amount.

ZOE MCMAUGH April 11, 2014 3:08am

Murray Irrigation Limited has been selected to deliver more than $29 million in on-farm irrigation efficiency projects but will be forced to reduce its program plans.

Murray Irrigation says the ‘in-principle’ funding from Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Environment Simon Birmingham falls well short of its requested amount.

MIL says it now has to revise its on-farm irrigation efficiency program, and possibly abandon some individual projects.

‘‘Total in-principle funds awarded to Murray Irrigation for Round Four is $29,183,697, excluding GST. These funds only cover a portion of the application amount sought,’’ general manager Anthony Couroupis said.

‘‘As we received in-principle funding for only a portion of our application, we ask applicants to be patient as we confirm whether their proposed project falls within the categories that have received in-principle funding.

‘‘Not all of our customers will be invited to complete a stage two application.

‘‘This (stage two applications) is quite detailed and includes a project plan, detailed project costing, and a water savings assessment.

‘‘In our stage two application each individual project is assessed and approved by the Department of the Environment for funding.’’

In the coming weeks, Murray Irrigation will provide further information via its weekly customer newsletter, Talking Water, along with written advice to each applicant to confirm the status of their expression of interest.

‘‘More information will be available over the next couple of weeks, once we have had some time to understand the department’s requirements,’’ Mr Couroupis said.

‘‘We also plan to hold workshops for successful applicants and we will do this once we have a better understanding of the Commonwealth’s requirements in this second stage.’’

The efficiency funding provides irrigators with the opportunity to invest in more efficient and productive on-farm infrastructure with a portion of the water savings being transferred to the environment.

‘‘The types of projects in our application included upgrading of surface irrigation infrastructure and also conversion of surface irrigation infrastructure to overhead spray infrastructure,’’ Mr Couroupis said.

The government program’s push to overhead spray infrastructure, otherwise known as centre pivots or laterals, is unsustainable according to Wakool Rivers Association chair and ricegrower John Lolicato.

Mr Lolicato said compared to surface irrigations, centre pivots are expensive and energy-draining.

‘‘Centre pivots force farmers into a higher level of costs,’’ he said.

‘‘The Murray Irrigation region is fortunate to have one of the most efficient and low cost and low energy irrigation systems because it is gravitational, but the way the government is going is that we have to pressurise.

‘‘The cost of operating a centre pivot is not sustainable in the long run – they have a life span of about 20 years and cost money even when they’re not being used.

‘‘By the book, the funding and the program does look good but it’s not necessarily going to pay the costs incurred by farmers.’’

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