The Victorian and Commonwealth Governments have approved the reset of the $2 billion Connections Project following a decision on the best way to secure the future of irrigated agriculture in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (MGID).
The Connections Project aims to save 429GL of water and improve the Goulburn Murray district’s agricultural productivity and efficiency. It is estimated about 4150km of channel will be modernised during the project including the installation of new water meters.
The key feature of the reset is a publicly available channel-by-channel assessment, categorising channels in terms of water savings, water use and potential efficiency gains for the district. An online portal will also be publicly accessible.
Minister for Water Lisa Neville announced the reset plan at the Victorian Farmers Federation water forum (VFF) in Rochester in Victoria, which also includes an improved delivery model that uses local input and increases transparency for landowners.
To ensure there are checks and balances in place, the model includes an independent review, a landowner submissions process and provision of a ‘reasonable time’ to reach agreement.
“This is a significant day as we announce a real pathway forward for Connections – one that will produce water savings as part of our commitment to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and secure the future of irrigated agriculture in the Goulburn Murray region,” Ms Neville said.
“We were determined to get this reset right, and now we have a clear plan for this once-in-a-generation project to benefit irrigators and the environment.”
The Victorian Government has worked closely with Goulburn Murray Water, the VFF, local councils and water services committees on the Connections Project reboot, building on work from the Project Control Group (PCG) to roll-out $47 million in winter works and resolve more than 100 cases experiencing delays.
Planning has also begun on the 2017 winter works package – worth more than $100 million – including meter upgrades, new regulators, channel remediation and pipeline construction.
The PCG will contact landowners throughout September 2016 to discuss the timing of works in their area.
The Connections Project remains on budget, with the timeline for completion of physical works extended to October 2020. Connections will deliver 204GL of water to the Commonwealth, in line with the Basin Plan requirements.
The reset follows the mid-term review released in 2015, additional consultation with irrigators and the establishment of the PCG to drive the future of the project.