THE tap has been turned on the Connections Project reset process, with the State Government announcing groundwork on the $2.1 billion project will be pushed out by two years to 2020, and committing to modernise all but five per cent of uncommitted channel and two per cent of outlets in uncommitted works.
Water Minister Lisa Neville made the announcement at a Victorian Farmers Federation water forum at Rochester on Wednesday night.
VFF Water Council Chair Richard Anderson said he was cautiously confident the delivery plan would meet the VFF’s expectations to drive system cost efficiencies whilst also delivering fit-for-purpose connections for irrigators.
“Our position throughout this process has been that the future of the GMID must be considered first and foremost, not only the need to deliver water efficiency savings,” Mr Anderson said.
“We expect, as a minimum, that all commercial irrigators will get a modernised outlet and channel automation.”
The Minister outlined a revamped landholder engagement process that aims to promote transparency and fast track agreements and modernisation works.
Under the reset plan, 61 per cent of the 950km of uncommitted channel will be replaced with new meters, 11 per cent will be rationalised and replaced with a GMW shared connection pipeline and 23 per cent will be rationalised, and replaced by private infrastructure.
Out of the 4,378 outlets in uncommitted works, 55 per cent will be replaced with new meters and 43 per cent will be rationalised without replacement.
“Poor engagement was a key criticism of the Connections project in the past that led to lengthy delays for the project and unnecessary angst for landholders,” Mr Anderson said.
“Better communication and availability of information should encourage cooperation between the project team and landholders leading to better, faster outcomes.”
Mr Anderson said the VFF hoped more detailed information would become available so that individual irrigators can consider what the reset delivery plan means for their farm business.
The farmer group will work through the detail of the project delivery plan with the Government and the project team.
The reset launch comes six months after Minister Neville last visited the region in March to listen to irrigators concerns and announce the formation of a Project Control Group to oversee the reset process.