Water

McNamara steps up as G-MW chair

By Geoff Adams

Goulburn-Murray Water deputy chair Pat McNamara said he was not aware of any friction at governance level that might have led to the sudden departure of the chair, Jo Anderson.

Mr McNamara said the board was not distracted and would continue to focus on the big challenges facing the water authority.

Mr McNamara, a former Victorian deputy premier, has agreed to take on the role of acting chairman, but said he did not want the job long-term.

He is happy to continue as board member and deputy. He has been on the board for three years.

While Mr McNamara would not be drawn on commenting on Ms Anderson’s departure, he pointed to the major issues facing G-MW, including declining water delivery to the Goulburn Murray irrigation District.

‘‘In 1982 the old State Rivers was delivering about three million megalitres; last year that was about 1.3million.’’

Mr McNamara said the infrastructure footprint needed to be reduced further, reflecting the declining water delivery.

He is concerned the reduced water delivery was increasing costs on the water authority.

‘‘We need to look at how we can run our system more efficiently and reduce our costs.

‘‘We will be focusing on how we can reduce costs to irrigators. One of our responsibilities is to help farmers make a dollar or save a dollar.’’

In February, Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville established a strategic advisory body chaired by Mike Walsh, who formerly chaired the Connections project.

Mr Walsh and a small panel have been advising the board and reporting to the minister.

Country News understands there has been some friction within the governance relationships leading to Ms Anderson’s decision to leave without any public explanation.

She has declined an interview with Country News.

On Monday, July 30, a short statement from G-MW advised Ms Anderson was stepping down from her role, ‘‘effective immediately’’.

Two years ago the water authority’s then managing director, John Calleja, also resigned suddenly and without explanation.

Ms Anderson, who has an extensive background in water authority governance, has been thanked for her work by managing director Pat Lennon.

‘‘Jo has a great passion for G-MW and its staff and I thank her for her time at G-MW,’’ Mr Lennon said.

‘‘Jo came into the business about two years ago, during which time G-MW has recognised the need to face the challenges ahead of us in delivering affordable pricing for customers whilst ensuring G-MW remains a sustainable business.

‘‘We wish Jo all the best for the future and thank her for her time working with us.’’

Ms Neville accepted Ms Anderson’s resignation and thanked her for her contribution during the past two years.

‘‘My focus continues to be on the future of Goulburn-Murray Water, its customers, the community and ensuring we have a prosperous Goulburn Murray Irrigation District,’’ she said.

‘‘I’d also like to reassure customers and landholders that this will have no impact to the work currently going on in the district, such as delivery of Connections or the transformation work.’’

Ms Neville did not respond to questions about any friction at the governance level and whether this was linked to the sudden departure of Mr Calleja two years ago.