GBCMA chief executive Chris Norman said there was strong interest in the Victorian Farm Modernisation Project (VFMP), covering the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
“It’s now on hold – it’s a $200 million program but the last $30m has been put on hold by the Victorian government in response to a whole lot of socio- economic reviews being undertaken for Victoria,” Mr Norman said.
Cohuna dairy farmer and livestocker Stuart Palmer, who has a 647 hectare farm, said he was very interested in taking part in the program. “It seems like a bit of a mess, really, and my concern is that it’s not fair. I have three properties, on two different channels,” Mr Palmer said. “But I was told that because I wasn’t on a backbone, I couldn’t participate in any on-farm efficiency programs.”
He said it was the only way he could afford to develop the properties. “Everyone wants to participate, I am keen but, because of poor decision making, I am missing out.”
Echuca’s David Johnson said his property had only just been connected. The recent upgrade had taken the farm from a five megalitre (ML) supply to 12ML. He said there was a lot of talk about water leaving the district, causing a negative socio-economic impact. “If I can upgrade my infrastructure, laser and lay out the ground, I can use my entitlement more efficiently, rather than spilling temporary water most years.”
He said there was significant potential to improve crops on the 80ha block, on which he grew grapes, pistachio nut trees, had a cropping operation and ran sheep. “I hope they reinstate the program, that would be fantastic.”
On its website, the GBCMA said program consortium members would continue to work together to support irrigators and regional jobs. The GBCMA was looking at ways to develop and fund the program. “We have been asked to come up with a different model, so we can get investment on farms, without losing water out of the region.” He said 540 projects had been delivered, saving about 70 gigalitres of water.
The program included a range of projects, including laser grading, drainage, fast flow irrigation, pipes and risers, irrigation scheduling and automation. “There is still funding for existing rounds of the program, but we are not opening up a new round,” Mr Norman said. “We know the demand is out there for the program to continue – 61,000 hectares have been upgraded and we predict another 50-60,000ha could be upgraded.