Call for more irrigators on rural water board

Greater contact between board and irrigators urged


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IRRIGATOR UPSET: Lawrie Maxted, Boort irrigator, expressed his dismay at the Ombudsman's report.

IRRIGATOR UPSET: Lawrie Maxted, Boort irrigator, expressed his dismay at the Ombudsman's report.

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Irrigators say instability at Goulburn-Murray Water is causing them great concern

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Northern Victorian farmers believe the Goulburn Murray Water expense claim scandal could have been avoided if there had been greater communication with irrigators.

Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass found the former managing director of Goulburn Murray Water, Pat Lennon, claimed reimbursement to which he was not entitled.

Central Goulburn Water Services committee Peter Hacon said the biggest problems facing irrigators was the lack of stability and communication between the board and farmers.

“It appears to be a cultural thing, where there is minimal direct contact from the board with customer representatives,” Mr Hacon said. 

“If you have skin in the game, everything works so much better.”

A dairy farmer and two livestock producers are currently on the 10 member board.

Murrabit irrigator and dairy farmer Andrew Leahy agreed the problems stemmed from not having people on the board who understood GMW or the irrigation district.

“Part of the discussion we have had with GMW is that half of these boards need to be made up of irrigators – at least that give people some input,” Mr Leahy said.

He believed it was disappointing for Water Minister Lisa Neville, who he said had been working to support irrigators in the Goulburn Murray region. 

Boort irrigator Lawrie Maxted said the claims regarding expense misuse were unbelievable.

“At a water service committee level we are doing all we can to save money and it’s just getting spent out the top end,” Mr Maxted said.

But livestock producer Peter Serpell, Dederang, said removing the chair and managing director was a storm in a teacup.

“If it wasn’t an election year it wouldn’t be an issue,” Mr Serpell said. 

“I really thought $40,000 wasn’t a big issue. The Minister can’t get away scot-free, she’s the one responsible for appointing the chair.”

But he agreed the constant turnover of chairs and managing directors did not help confidence.

“We thought we were going to have some stability, this time around - it’s not very good for morale, for everyone,” he said. 

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