Irrigators oppose mine plan

Gippsland irrigators form group to formally oppose mine plan

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CONCERNED: About 45 irrigators met it in Gippsland last week to discuss concerns about a plan to fill Latrobe Valley coal mines with Latrobe River water.

CONCERNED: About 45 irrigators met it in Gippsland last week to discuss concerns about a plan to fill Latrobe Valley coal mines with Latrobe River water.

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A group of 45 irrigators met in Gippsland last week to oppose a plan to fill coal mines with river water.

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Vocal Gippsland irrigators are set to lobby the government to explore alternate ways to fill Latrobe Valley coal mines after a group was formed last week.

Eleven primary producers and irrigators have expressed interest in advocating for the group of farmers who oppose water from the Latrobe River system being used to fill coal mines in Victoria's east.

About 45 irrigators attended the meeting supported by Member for Gippsland South Danny O'Brien and Victorian Farmers Federation Gippsland regional representative Cam Corrigan.

Group spokesman and Pearsondale beef producer Angus Zilm said the group would call on the government to explore alternate ways to rehabilitate the coal mines.

Farmers from Tyers, north of Traralgon, to Lake Wellington, near Sale, attended the meeting.

"We don't believe the community has been given all the information about alternatives or about the potential cost to water users downstream," Mr Zilm said.

The mines at Hazelwood, which closed in 2017, and Yallourn and Loy Yang are separately owned with the latter slated for closure in 2032 and 2048, respectively.

The operators plan to use water from the Latrobe River system to fill the mines, requiring up to 3000 megalitres collectively to fill.

Irrigators on the system use 10 gigalitres annually.

"Irrigators are happy to work with government to develop a sustainable plan to rehabilitate the mine sites, however, fresh water should primarily be used to grow food and fibre which will create jobs, attract investment and importantly service the ever growing demand for Australia's premium produce," Mr Zilm said.

"Not to simply be put into a stagnant pit in the ground when there are other options."

Govt tight-lipped says state MP

Gippsland South MP Danny O'Brien, who attended part of the meeting, said the government was yet to confirm if alternative ways to fill the mines had been explored after questioning Water Minister Lisa Neville last year.

"I believe we can shore up existing irrigators entitlements and potentially expand irrigation in the region but we need a sound, rational debate over mine rehabilitation and so far the conversation on that is all one-way," Mr O'Brien said.

Earlier this month, Ms Neville said: "The entitlements and needs of existing users - including communities, farmers and the environment - will be fully protected during any rehabilitation process."

"We've done extensive studies in the region to understand the competing needs for water resources.

"Our studies have shown that any supply of water for rehabilitation will be subject to availability - and could be stopped altogether during periods of dry conditions."

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