The GMW Strategic Advisory Panel, which reviewed the corporation, said it needed to achieve significant annual savings, particularly in the gravity irrigation business.
Gravity irrigation made up just over 50 per cent of GMW’s regulated revenue but about 60pc of its operational costs.
Fernihurst irrigator Ken Pattison said he was “absolutely horrified” as to what the recommendations meant for the Loddon Valley.
He said the savings were required, because the $2billion Connections project was not based on sound foundations. “The building blocks were wrong, to start with,” Mr Pattison said.
“Over 40 per cent of water meters are not being used, or are using less than 20megalitres (ML). They have a short life and will need to be replaced.”
“The over capacity in the system is horrific – it’s catastrophic, what other word can you put on it?
“When you look at the savings they have to find, or price increases, it’s catastrophic.”
He said his concern was that maintenance would now dry up.
“All it means is they won’t do anything,” he said.
‘It just boils down to the fact the money hasn’t been properly spent. We should have a fantastic show, and we haven’t.
“And what we have got, we won’t be able to look after.”
Mr Pattison was one of a number of Loddon Valley irrigators who questioned the Connections roll out, in Stock and Land, a year ago.
Durham Ox irrigator Murray Haw said panel member Mike Walsh had first hand experience with GMW’s management practices, “and it hasn’t been a good experience.”
“They don’t listen to the irrigators, or staff in the branches or in the field, who are dealing first hand with the customers and irrigators,” Mr Haw said.
“If GMW had listened to its customers years ago, they may have got somewhere.”
Mr Haw was among a group of Loddon Valley irrigators who said they’d been raising issues, about GMW and the $2billion Connections project, for many years.
“We’ve been telling them, for years, they have been putting in meters that haven’t operated,” he said.
Mr Haw, and Boort irrigator, Lawrie Maxted, praised the work of current Water Minister, Lisa Neville, in setting up the inquiry.
“I think we should thank Ms Neville that this has all happened,” Mr Haw said.
Boort irrigated crop producer Laurie Maxted said GMW’s woes were compounded by the loss of water from the consumptive pool.
“We’ve been saying, for some time, GMW’s business is under threat,” Mr Maxted said.
“I’m totally impressed with Lisa Neville, she is batting for us, so we don’t lose any of this 450gigalitires of upwater.
‘She is batting for Victorian irrigators, and that’s the impressive part of all of that; she’s our best bet, at the moment.’
Mr Pattison said if water continued to leave the region, “GMW will not be a water business, because it will have no water.”
Durham Ox sheep producer Chris Harrison last year claimed despite the $2 billion spent on Connections, “significant numbers of irrigators will be paying higher costs for their water and a fair proportion of those people will have a poorer supply.”
Mr Harrison then made the claim 41per cent of GMW’s meters were not being used on a regular basis – a figure backed by the report. “I believe 18pc of the new meters haven’t been used at all,” he said.
Mr Pattison said the State Government would have to bail GMW out.
‘The government initiated this, Labor, and (former Premier) John Brumby started this, it’s a Labor Government initiative.
“(Water Minister) Lisa Neville is obviously terribly concerned about what is happening and that’s why the inquiry was held.
“It was driven by a small group of people, based on no factual evidence, and now the chickens are coming home to roost.”