Plea to reinvest for farmers

By Country News

The VFF has called for funds from the sale of Victoria’s share of the Snowy Hydro Scheme to be re-invested in rural and regional Victoria for the benefit of primary producers.

‘‘We are encouraged that the state government’s decision to sell the Snowy Hydro Scheme includes protection of the current water arrangements; next we need to ensure the funds from the sale of this regional asset are directed to the regions,’’ VFF president David Jochinke said.

‘‘Let’s use the money from a regional, water and energy asset to invest in the future of our water and energy infrastructure.

‘‘We don’t want to see our regional water and energy infrastructure decline like our regional roads have.’’

The slated $2 billion sale of Victoria’s stake in the Snowy Hydro project has in-principle bipartisan support in Spring Street, but it’s unclear exactly how the windfall would be spent.

The Federal Government has agreed to buy Victoria’s and NSW’s respective $2.077 billion and $4.154 billion stakes in the Snowy Hydro, in order to proceed with an expansion to benefit the east-coast electricity grid.

In return, the states will have to spend the money on ‘‘productive infrastructure’’.

Victoria’s Labor government has labelled the sale, which needs parliamentary approval, a ‘‘win-win’’ for the state and Commonwealth.

But Premier Daniel Andrews has not decided what infrastructure projects to fund with the money.

‘‘Sending our portion of the Snowy to the Commonwealth — allowing them to get on and do that important work — that’s not only of benefit to the Victorian budget and Victorian taxpayers, but Victorian energy consumers will benefit from that as well,’’ he told reporters on March 2.

‘‘In terms of where that $2billion will go, we’ll have more to say about that.’’

The sale has in-principle support from Victoria’s Liberal-National opposition, but treasury spokesman Michael O’Brien says they want more detail.

‘‘We need to be assured that our farmers and irrigators, those people who do rely on the Snowy system, will be looked after,’’ Mr O’Brien said.

Mr Andrews assured voters the sale would not have any adverse impacts on water entitlements.

The $4.5 billion Snowy Hydro expansion is designed to boost the capacity of the iconic scheme by 50 per cent, but is not due to be finished until at least 2024.