Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Fears water plan is farm kiss of death

Stanhope resident Kevin Sutton fears plans to dry off farms will have a major impact on the region’s economic future.

February 6, 2013 4:31am

Stanhope farmer Kevin Sutton fears the potential impact of G-M Water's Connections Project.

Stanhope resident Kevin Sutton fears plans to dry off farms will have a major impact on the region’s economic future.

Mr Sutton has previously stated his concerns directly to both former Northern Victoria Infrastructure Renewal Project chief executive, now Goulburn-Murray Water Connections Project manager, George Warne and Victorian Water Minister Peter Walsh at meetings in Kyabram last year.

At the first of those meetings Mr Warne confirmed what many local farmers had suspected for some time, that NVIRP, now the G-MW Connections Project, aims to close off half the region’s irrigation channels.

Mr Sutton has lived on a farm near Stanhope for almost 60 years and has taken a keen interest in irrigation and water management issues, including the building of channels during the 1950s and 60s.

He said many people seem to think closing off channels will only affect farms and do not realise the knock-on effect the decline in farming properties will have.

He fears a substantial effect on jobs and consequently the region’s overall economy as a result of the number of farms likely to become dry due to aim of the project.

Mr Sutton provided an example of his fears noting around 20 properties within an area of about 12sqkm north-west of Stanhope.

Some landowners there have already been offered compensation packages by G-M Water to either move their farming operations elsewhere or sell off the water allocation for their properties, effectively losing agricultural land value.

“What we can see here is just a microcosm of what could happen throughout the region,” he said.

The affected properties are currently served by spur channels which run off of what is now termed the backbone channel network.

The Connections Program, which is due to be completed in 2018, will see many spur channels closed off with water instead being supplied to properties via a new pipeline and pumping system.

Mr Sutton’s own property is on a backbone channel but he said many neighbouring properties are on spur channels.

These properties will be grouped into 180 pods throughout the G-M Water region which will each consist of up to 40 properties.

Mr Sutton said he believes management and maintenance costs of these systems will likely mean affected landowners will end up paying up to 10 times as much for their water.

“The differing strategy being used between customers on backbone channels and those on non-backbone is discrimination,” he said.

He said similar pod systems had been tried in areas on Western Australia and NSW and had been fraught with problems.

G-M Water is holding a series of meetings with landowners in various Strategic Connection Plan Areas from Lancaster to Kerang.

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