Shrink the irrigation system and you shrink our communities and economy
Tuesday 17 July, 2012
The Victorian Government’s Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW)- Northern Victorian Irrigation Renewal Project (NVIRP) Foodbowl Modernisation Project, plans to shut down or privatise half of the existing infrastructure in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District. This move could put the region’s future economic viability in jeopardy.
It will impact not only farms, but the towns that depend on them. For example, farm suppliers and food factories, truck drivers, shop keepers, schools, sporting clubs, in fact, everything that you find in our more than 50 small and larger communities.
Farm and residential property values will be seriously affected. Northern Victoria already has some of the highest youth unemployment in Australia. We can’t afford to have more jobs put at risk. Shrinking the productivity as you dry off the irrigation system will also be a real threat to our dairy companies and fruit and vegetable manufacturers.
There is a need to impose an immediate moratorium on any further farm buy backs, water removals or system reconfiguration until the legal and financial problems associated with GMW-NVIRP’s new structures are fully exposed.
G-MW is in the process of privatising all but the ‘back-bone’, transferring what were once called the ‘spurs’ into water-user owned, maintained, managed and controlled ‘pods’ via their own little local committee. This committee will be bound by a Community Water Supply and Access (CWSA) Agreement. It could vary in size, depending on the spur, from a couple of water users to twenty or more. There are no opt out clauses.
The CWSA agreements under the pod structure fail to meet the basic legal requirements needed to provide local committees with the operability, legal status and liability protection for all who have to sign up.
Committee members could end up in the position of unlimited liability for expenses such as burst pipes, damaged channels, unpaid accounts, death or injury.
GMW water users and local communities need to know exactly what is going on. Everyone needs to know what other options are available before it is too late and too much damage is done, in pursuit of the current strategy. All of our communities must now be fully engaged in this matter. The good news is that there are alternatives, but we have to act quickly. Too many people are now too frustrated and ready to throw in the towel.
Sharman Stone, Member for Murray.