Nats want state to fund its share of MID upgrade

FEDERAL and state MPs have called on the state next month government to announce its share of the funding needed to complete phase two of the Macalister Irrigation District modernisation project.

Gippsland MHR Darren Chester said it was now almost 12 months since he secured $31 million in federal government funding to upgrade the remainder of the MID’s aging infrastructure.

“Phase one works were worth more than $60 million and had bipartisan support, with the cost of the project shared between the federal government, state government and irrigators themselves,” Mr Chester said.

When finished, the MID’s ageing assets would be transformed into a highly automated, efficient, modern water delivery system.

Gippsland East MLA Tim Bull said a commitment from the state government was long overdue.

“I have made repeated calls for the state government to stump up its share of the funding needed to upgrade the MID, which is a critical economic asset for Gippsland,” Mr Bull said.

“The MID is one of Australia’s safest irrigation areas and can be relied on to deliver, but modernising our channels and supply systems will save water and produce enormous efficiencies for our farmers.

“Many people in Gippsland are deeply disappointed that Labor didn’t announce its share of the funding needed in last year’s budget.

“A commitment is long overdue, and it’s time for the Andrews government to show its support for Gippsland’s farmers.”

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien said the value of investing in the modernisation project to Victoria’s economy was clear.

“Both sides of politics have supported this project for years,” Mr O’Brien said.

“It will allow for more efficient irrigation practices and secure a strong future for the local agricultural sector.

“The MID contributes an estimated $500 million to the Victorian economy.

“Upgrading the remainder of the irrigation network will save up to 10 gigalitres of water, help boost the production of milk and food in Gippsland, and reduce the amount of nutrient discharges that reach local waterways and the Gippsland Lakes.

“Of course, phase two of the project will create jobs during construction and support employment growth in the future as agricultural businesses grow.

“If the Andrews government was serious about supporting jobs and industry in Gippsland, the premier needs to get his chequebook out.

“The decision to allocate money to a project that will bring such economic and environmental benefits really is a no-brainer.”

Labor’s Eastern Victoria MLC Jane Garrett said the Macalister Irrigation modernisation project had been led by Victoria.

“We’ll continue to drive the project with Southern Rural Water, and $36 million has already been committed by the Victorian government.

“We know it’s a great project for the region, and welcome the Commonwealth’s support.”