SOUTH Gippsland is one of the wettest non-tropical regions on Australia’s mainland, but it will rely on Melbourne’s Water in the future after the State Government announced it would pay $30 million of a $43 million project to connect towns to the city grid.
Korumburra (Coalition Creek system), Nyora, Loch and Poowong (Little Bass system) will be connected to Victoria’s water grid via the Lance Creek Reservoir (Wonthaggi’s supply) and the pipe to and from the desalination plant.
The $30 million investment in the 2016/17 Victorian Budget will significantly improve water security for the towns, which are on Stage 2 water restrictions due to ongoing dry conditions.
Water minister Lisa Neville made the announcement at Burra Foods on Thursday.
She said the project was also underpin the future of food processing in the region by providing companies such as Burra Foods and GBP Exports – who currently employ 165 and 180 staff in the region respectively – with supply security and the confidence to further invest in their businesses.
“These communities currently rely on water from small, rainfall-dependent local dams, but the project will change this by linking the towns to the Lance Creek supply system, which provides access to Melbourne’s water supply system,” Ms Neville said.
The project, to be delivered by South Gippsland Water at a total cost of $43.39 million, will therefore significantly reduce the likelihood of any future water restrictions.
The project will consist of two pipeline sections – Lance Creek to Korumburra ($28.7 million) and Korumburra to Poowong ($8.24 million) while South Gippsland Water will construct a new dosing plant ($0.845 million) and recommission some dams ($5.6 million).
“Communities here have been doing it tough without a secure water supply. That goes for both households and businesses. Things are about to change.”
Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said the project is a major win for the local communities.
“It provides safe and secure access to household water and also investment certainty to local food processors such as Burra Foods and GBP Exports.”
South Gippsland Water chair David Schultz said the project is a key component in South Gippsland Water’s long-term strategy to secure water supply for the region over the next 50 years.
“This is an important project for the northern towns in South Gippsland,” he said.
“Current catchment yields will reduce over time and will not meet the region’s future demand for water.”
Managing director Philippe du Plessis said this project would be more economically beneficial in the long term than maintaining and expanding the capacity of the existing reservoirs.
He said the infrastructure installed as part of the project will also allow for the future connection of Leongatha to the network.
Burra Foods’ chief financial officer, Murray de Jong said announcement marks a significant step for water security in the South Gippsland region, including for Burra Foods.
“As one of the largest employers in the region, we can now continue with our commitment to further investing in infrastructure that improves efficiencies and delivers flow-on benefits to the local community.”
Water bills must not rise
GIPPSLAND South MP Danny O’Brien said the project had been a top priority since his election.
“I have been fighting, alongside the local community, for this project and it is great to see it funded.
“The project will shore up jobs and the future of important local businesses like Burra Foods and GBP Exports at Poowong.”
He said the project does not rely on water from the desal plant.
“Labor should not use the needs of these towns to justify using its expensive white elephant project.
“It is concerning that the cost of this project has blown out from $30 million to $43 million in just two years since the original business case was presented to the former Coalition Government in its final months in office.
“Labor must now assure South Gippsland Water customers they will not face unreasonable water rate increases to pay for its past mismanagement of water policy.
“Projects such as the CFMEU-induced desal plant disaster and the north-south pipeline when Labor was last in government saw water bills double in some areas.”
Victorian Chamber Chief Executive Mark Stone said the investment would foster economic growth.
“South Gippsland is home to key food processing businesses and this project will provide them with improved water security and certainty for the future.
“Access to a safe and reliable water supply is vital for regional businesses and this announcement is a win for local businesses and jobs.”
Mr Stone said the announcement would “enhance the liveability of those people living and working in the Nyora, Loch, Korumburra and Poowong region”.