LAYING 70 kilometres of pipeline through hostile territory was the easy part.
Securing water rights for Victoria's controversial north-south pipe looms as the next challenge for the Brumby Government.
The final piece of the pipe was sunk into the ground near Yarra Glen yesterday, creating a man-sized tunnel between the Goulburn River and Melbourne's Sugarloaf reservoir.
Completion of the pipe was achieved ahead of time despite delays in approvals and opposition from landowners who fought the pipe's passage through their properties.
February's bushfires also delayed work for several weeks when they scorched directly over the top of the pipe's path.
Water Minister Tim Holding celebrated the milestone by drawing two hands on the final piece of pipe; a gesture he said symbolised the people of country Victoria and the people of Melbourne "reaching out" to help each other over water issues.
Despite the fanfare, the pipe remains without water.
Mr Holding's first attempt to formalise water rights for the pipe was halted by opposition parties in the Upper House of the Victorian Parliament.
He will soon try again by issuing a second entitlement and its success will depend on whether he can win support from the Greens or the DLP.
The Liberals and Nationals seem certain to oppose the second entitlement as they did the first, after Mr Holding said he would not bow to the concessions they were seeking.
Labor believes a change of heart from the Greens is its best chance of getting the water rights through, as all the water saved to date will go to irrigators if the second entitlement is not approved within coming weeks.
Rivers will get a third of that water for environmental flows, if the second entitlement is approved, and Mr Holding said the Greens should be mindful of that.
Greens MP Greg Barber said his support would depend on Mr Holding delivering a warranty for environmental flows, not open-ended promises about the future.
The pipe is intended to carry 75 billion litres of water to Melbourne in 2010, but the Coalition has vowed gradually to reduce the flow to zero once Melbourne's water needs are secured, if it wins the election in November 2010.
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