Why retire an asset that provides relief?

Opinion: Why retire an asset that provides relief for irrigators?

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Greens Lake, Victoria.

Greens Lake, Victoria.

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Ken Pattison writes about the decommissioning of Greens Lake.

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In response to a recent Stock and Land article about the decommissioning of Greens Lake, it is breathtaking that Victoria's leading irrigation advocate, VFF Water Resource Chair and Rochester Water Services Chair, Richard Anderson, is in agreeance to reduce the number of water storages and more Goulburn bulk entitlement.

Greens Lake is an inline storage, located between Shepparton and Rochester. It can supply up to 32 gigalitres at a rate of 500 megalitres a day to the Goulburn System through five pumps. The lake is currently holding 16 gigalitres (at current levels this represents about 4 per cent of total Goulburn HRWS). If the pumps are taken away from Greens Lake it becomes an unregulated lake and if water savings are sold from this action the Lake is reducing the Goulburn's bulk entitlement.

GMW's Dr Mark Bailey could not identify the characteristics of those savings, however if savings are sold, the Bulk Entitlement of the Goulburn system would be reduced and therefore irrigators' water security also reduced.

Why is the VFF advocating the retirement of a Victorian asset that can provide water to irrigators in tough times and reduces their entitlement?

Allocations on the Goulburn System are at 98 per cent, turning on the pumps could lift the allocation to 100 per cent.

This year, many irrigators have paid $500 a megalitre for temporary water. The costs of pumping Greens Lake are insignificant in comparison. Estimates for allocations next season are between 30 per cent and 60 per cent. If temporary water prices hold at $500 a megalitre, the value of $8 million of pumped water from Greens Lake would provide a small but important relief to irrigators. Even in 2015/16 the Goulburn allocation only reached 90 per cent but could have been 94 per cent if Greens Lake pumps were used.

Mr Anderson also stated in the article that if Loddon Valley alone wanted the water, they should pay for it, but Greens Lake is a benefit to all Goulburn irrigators, not just Loddon Valley farmers. All irrigators want the maximum allocation.

GMW projects decommissioning Greens Lake will generate 8 gigalitres ($40m at current market rates) of water savings. GMW plans to sell the water savings to GMW Connections for $200,000 and this revenue is earmarked to be spent on recreational facilities around Greens Lake. This represents another of GMW's Ponzi water saving schemes, which started with the GMW Reconfiguration Project aiming to save 25 gigalitres for $50 million. This project failed in saving 25 gigalitres and monies not spent were distributed to the Central Goulburn 1-4 and Shepparton Modernisation Projects.

The yearly maintenance cost of Greens Lake is $20,000 in a business of $130 million (GMW). Putting this in context, previous misappropriated expense claims by former GMW CEO is a similar amount to maintenance. So we ask, what will irrigators receive out of this deal? A toilet block and more facilities that they are still required to maintain into the future?

This deal is like the toilet block it is funding. Even in the driest years GMW still outfalls 1 gigalitre (1000 megalitres) a year into Greens Lake. It's time to make a change and for GMW to be working for irrigators to support their farming businesses. Enough time and effort has gone into GMW focusing on anything and everything but their customers.

- Ken Pattison, Loddon Valley irrigator and former GMW director

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