The Nationals Danny O'Brien Farmers Irrigation macalister irrigation district Blue Rock blue rock dam blue rock lake Latrobe River Hazelwood rehabilitation Hazelwood hazelwood mine

Irrigation expansion needs more than words

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien says the Andrews Labor Government needs to get serious about expanding irrigation in Central Gippsland.

Mr O’Brien was commenting after receiving a response from the Minister for Water to questions he raised in Parliament about the opportunities for expanded irrigation along the Latrobe River and in the Macalister Irrigation District.

“I went to State Parliament and called on the Minister to provide surplus water from Blue Rock Lake and the Latrobe River system to irrigation to help create jobs and sustainable economic activity in the Latrobe Valley and Central Gippsland areas,” Mr O’Brien said.

“The Minister has responded that the government is ‘exploring options’ to provide more water to irrigators, which is positive, but doesn’t address the key question.

“It’s good that the Minister is looking at how to provide more water to irrigators, but there are some straight forward options that the Minister has failed to directly address.

“I’ve indicated to the Parliament that there is significant water sitting in Blue Rock Lake that is allocated to the power industry but currently not used and could be reallocated to farmers in our region.”

Mr O’Brien said that the Minister’s response goes on to highlight a number of reviews, including the rehabilitation of the Morwell open cut coal mine and the current Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy.

“These are all challenges that are facing us, but we actually need the government to take a positive approach to driving development and jobs in central Gippsland.

“I’m very concerned that a full pit lake is the only option being proposed for the Morwell mine rehabilitation and this threatens other potential water users on the Latrobe.

“While I’m glad the government says it’s interested in expanding irrigation, it needs to actually put some positive decisions behind that and reallocate unused water for purchase by our farmers.

“Developing irrigation further, particularly high-value irrigation, will help create jobs and ease the industry transition in our local area,” Mr O’Brien said.

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