Work has started in Blessington, Tasmania, on the  $30 million North Esk Irrigation Scheme, following the award of the design and construction tender in November 2017.

Gradco will build the dam, and Shaw Contracting (Australia) will build the pump stations and pipeline network.

The tender process and the applications for Development Approval lodged with the Launceston and Northern Midland Councils were the final steps before construction could begin.

The 468ML scheme proposes to take water from the North Esk River at Watery Plains, Blessington during winter and transfer it to a storage at White Hills, that is yet to be constructed.

The 5,200ML “Dalness Dam” will be used to store scheme water for delivery during a 120-day irrigation season nominally from November through March each year.

Two pump stations are proposed for the scheme: The North Esk Watery Plains transfer pump station, and a boost pump at the Rocklands Dam to service the White Hills and Logan Road areas.

The majority of the scheme’s water (85 per cent) will be distributed via gravity.

Some 63km of pipelines are proposed varying in size from 710mm down to 160mm.  

These pipes are all proposed to be of High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) and will be installed with a minimum of 700mm of cover from the top of the pipe.

Assistant Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Anne Ruston, said, “Areas of the Northern Midlands and around Launceston support a variety of agricultural enterprises, and the main impediment to expansion of irrigation in the region is the limited supply of water and associated lack of reliable water.

“The North Esk Irrigation Scheme will help overcome that by providing 4685 megalitres of high security irrigation water to the Northern Midlands and increase the irrigation footprint in the region by a substantial area.”

Tasmanian Deputy Premier and Primary Industries and Water Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, said as many as 30 full-time equivalent jobs are expected to be created.

“The statewide irrigation program is a key part of the Hodgman Government’s Sustainable Agri-Food Plan to grow the value of agriculture to $10 billion by 2050,” Mr Rockliff said.

“This North Esk Irrigation Scheme will deliver a reliable water source and allow for the expansion of horticulture, viticulture, mixed cropping and intensive livestock grazing.

“Importantly farmers are genuine partners investing with government in the capital works as well as the additional on-farm infrastructure like dams, pipes and centre-pivots or drippers.”

Senator for Tasmania Jonathon Duniam, said work on the scheme follows the $30 million Duck Irrigation Scheme at Circular Head that got underway in February 2017.

“Both schemes are part of the Coalition’s $60 million commitment to Tasmanian Irrigation Tranche II projects, which also includes $25 million towards the Swan Valley and Southern Highlands irrigation schemes,” Mr Duniam said.

“This scheme adds to Tasmania’s high-value agriculture and food opportunity.

“The North Esk locality makes it ideal for air freighting high value goods and is in an excellent position to service the agri-food tourism and `paddock-to-plate’ trend.”

Almost $19 million for the North Esk Irrigation Scheme comes from the Federal Government, with the State Government contributing $4.5 million and irrigators a further $7 million. 

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