Opinion

Reduce irrigation footprint now

By Country News

The recently completed review of Goulburn-Murray Water undertaken by Marsden Jacob Associates for the government-appointed Strategic Advisory Panel contains some interesting finding.

Marsden Jacob Associates assessed the gravity irrigation business as being financially unsustainable assuming constant prices in real terms and that decreasing prices by five per cent or 10 per cent would only exacerbate the adverse financial position of the gravity irrigation business.

Marsden Jacob Associates also revealed that 80 per cent of channels delivered less than 500Ml and accounted for only 18 per cent of total deliveries while 20 per cent of channels delivered 500Ml and accounted for about 82 per cent during the 2017 irrigation season.

These and other findings lead the review to question the rationale for refurbishing under-utilised assets, outlined the potential to reduce the irrigation footprint and decommission a relatively high number of channels with a low number delivery shares all without any great impact on revenue.

These finding are consistent with the long-standing views of a section of the irrigation community and the Goulburn Valley Environment Group.

Some timelines contained within the review are less than aspirational and if we want to create a sustainable irrigation industry in northern Victoria we must implement the rationalisation and reduction of the irrigation footprint in a structured manner now.

While all stakeholders are responsible in part for the deficiency of the $2billion modernisation of ageing and inefficient irrigation system it has been evident virtually from the start that insufficient funds had been allocated to the multifaceted reorganisation of the social, economic and environmental interests.

If an additional $300million is needed to deliver a sustainable irrigation industry and a healthy environment so be it.

—Terry Court

Goulburn Valley

Environment Group

Leader should distance himself from Joyce

Congratulations to new Nationals leader Michael McCormack (Nats elect a fighter to the top job, Country News, February 27), who insists Mr Joyce’s ‘‘legacy’’ would endure.

Surely Mr McCormack would want the Nationals to distance themselves from the disaster that was Joyce’s term as Agriculture and Water Resources Minister.

Under Barnaby’s watch we saw the live export scandals, the destruction of irreplaceable botanical specimens from New Zealand and France, corruption and massive water theft from the Murray-Darling Basin, and the relocation of the APVMA, which the National Farmers Federation continues to have reservations about its negative impact on services and business.

While Mr Drum (MP, Murray) tries to blame all and sundry for problems with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, he would do well to clean up the broken glass in the Nationals house before throwing stones at others.

—Peter Neilson

Heathcote

Real people, friends and neighbours

I read with dismay the destruction of our Wakool community in statistics released last week.

They showed we have just under 50 per cent less people and just over 50 per cent fewer in the workforce compared to 2001.

But the great tragedy is that, as recent events have shown, they are seen only as statistics and not as real people with real livelihoods.

I cannot believe in the 21st century in Australia that it is acceptable for governments to sacrifice rural communities such as Wakool.

My community has been decimated by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan; a plan that governments promised would deliver a triple bottom line of social, economic and environmental outcomes.

Yet in South Australia they get off relatively scot free, refusing to undertake infrastructure works on the barrages, consider returning the end of system to its traditional estuarine state, or any other solution that may help us achieve a more balanced plan.

Now, because of the SA influence, Labor and the Greens want to inflict more pain on communities like Wakool by demanding the additional 450Gl upwater, despite a promise written in legislation by then Water Minister Tony Burke that this would only be delivered if there were no negative social and economic impacts.

For political gain he is now prepared to sacrifice more rural communities.

Is it any wonder Australians continue to lose faith in their political representation.

Finally, a message to every Australian: Please remember, the dramatic decline in population and jobs as shown in last week’s reports are not merely statistics.

They are real people, real neighbours and real friends in once vibrant communities like my Wakool, whose livelihoods are being sacrificed for political gain, not environmental gain.

That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

—Gary Hare

Wakool