Minister promises fix on water woes

Minister promises fix on water woes


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The State government was likely to seek to recover funding, spent on the $2 billion Connections project, where it had clearly been misspent, according to Victorian Water minister Lisa Neville.

The State Government would seek to recover Connections irrigation project funding, where it had failed to deliver promised results, according to Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville.

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Ms Neville, accompanied by senior departmental and Connections Project staff, met with irrigators in the Torumbarry, Kerang and Durham Ox area, late last week.

FIX PROMISED: Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville has promised to resolve problems plaguing the $2billion Connections irrigation project. PHOTO: Andrew Miller.

FIX PROMISED: Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville has promised to resolve problems plaguing the $2billion Connections irrigation project. PHOTO: Andrew Miller.

“Where money can be recovered, we will be seeking to recover it; that varies from issue to issue and whether it is something you can attempt to recover, or something that we have to move on from,” Ms Neville said.

“But we want to maximise every dollar - if there is anything we can point to - particularly around misuse, or companies not doing the job they were supposed to - we will be seeking to recover that money.

“If the project wasn’t delivered, or delivered as per the contract or arrangements – and there is a chance to recover that - we will reinvest that money back into this stage of the Connections budget.”

IRRIGATION ISSUES: Adam Wright, Fernihurst farmer, on one of Total Channel Control (TCC) Flume gates.

IRRIGATION ISSUES: Adam Wright, Fernihurst farmer, on one of Total Channel Control (TCC) Flume gates.

Mr Neville said Project Director Frank Fisseler was looking very closely at areas where money could be recovered.

She identified fixing the problem with the Total Channel Control (TCC) system in the Loddon Valley, were irrigators have experienced wild fluctuations in pool levels, as a priority.

“Everybody seems to be in agreement it is a software issue, and we talked quite a bit about this,” Ms Neville said.

“They said when it works, it’s fantastic, when it doesn’t, it’s terrible, so the number one priority is getting that TCC system fixed, so it’s reliable and delivering water as people were promised.”

Ms Neville said she would be monitoring the TCC system “very closely, to see if we can get a solution to that, very quickly.”

While she would not be drawn on who would pay to fix the problem, she said the pressure would be on Rubicon to find a solution.

“The priority here is getting it working, then looking at how that is paid for,” Ms Neville said.

“I would imagine - and my expectation is - that Rubicon would find the solution.

“It was their product, but we probably need to keep a lot of pressure on them, to make sure they do find that solution, as quickly as possible.”

It’s just over 12 months since the State Government announced a reset of the contentious Connections irrigation project, after a mid-term review.

“I think one of the things that became obvious to me, within the first six months of becoming Water minister, was this project needed to be shaken up,” Ms Neville said. 

“We needed to have a system, which not only fixed the individual problems, but one that made sure the project stayed on track.”

Fernihurst mixed farmer Adam Wright, one of those affected by erratic flows along the Loddon Valley’s Channel Number Two, said he was “cautiously optimistic.”

He attended the Durham Ox meeting, along with fellow irrigators who take water from the channel.

“I might see a little bit of action, but I am not really sure,” Mr Wright said.

“I spoke to Mr Fisseler and I have got to admit, it is the most positive vide I have had, for the past seven years.  He came across as a ‘doer’.”

Ms Neville announced the reset, after a mid-term review of the project.

As of eight months ago, the $827 million remained to be spent; it was made up of $439 million of committed funds and $388 million in unallocated money.

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