THE state government has put up a “bizarre defence” of its failure to fund phase two of the Macalister Irrigation District upgrade, according to local Nationals’ MPs.
The upgrade will complete the modernisation of the MID, delivering 10GL of water savings back to productive agriculture to help create jobs and economic activity in central Gippsland.
Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull and Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said they had been campaigning for state government funding after the Commonwealth provided $31 million for the project four months ago.
Mr O’Brien said Water Minister Lisa Neville gave a completely “implausible” explanation of Labor’s failure to fund the project when appearing before the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee last week.
“The minister said Victoria had put an expression of interest to the Commonwealth to get the $31 million of funding but is now saying the details and full costings of the state government’s contribution are still to be worked out – that just beggars belief,” he said.
“How is it the government can ask the Commonwealth for millions of dollars of funding if the project business case wasn’t completed?
“This is just another excuse by the Labor Party on why it is failing Gippslanders.
“It comes off the back of the failure to match the Commonwealth’s funding for the Princes Highway duplication and other important projects throughout our region.”
Mr Bull said the Macalister Irrigation District upgrade was a good project that would help boost the agricultural sector in the MID.
“This project will create jobs, improve farm productivity and deliver environmental benefits,” he said.
“Labor has been caught out with its excuses – you can’t send a business case to the Commonwealth seeking $31 million and then say the business case isn’t complete for the same project.
“Labor should stump up its share of the funding now so that this project can be completed as quickly as possible.”
Eastern Victoria MLC, Labor’s Jane Garrett, again failed to commit to the state government providing funding for MID phase two.
She said she had been “a strong supporter of the Macalister Irrigation District”.
“… I am glad that the Andrews Labor government has invested more than $36 million over the life of the project,” Ms Garrett said.
“The minister has previously written to the Commonwealth to ask for their support for the next stage – and we’re pleased they’ve responded to our calls and have made this commitment.”
“The state government will continue to work with Southern Rural Water on delivering phase 1B of the project and stand up for Victorian irrigators.”
Phase 1B is already well underway, and it is funding for phase two that is being sought.