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Irrigation expansion – what has Labor got to hide?

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien has queried why the Andrews Labor Government is hiding a report on potential irrigation expansion areas in Central Gippsland.

Mr O’Brien said he has been campaigning for the opportunity for expansion of irrigation in the region to help create jobs and develop long term sustainable industries.

“Southern Rural Water undertook a preliminary study of opportunities for expanding irrigation in the region several years ago and there is a broad-brush summary on its website. However when I asked the Minister for Water, Lisa Neville in Parliament for a copy to be made available I have been told it will not be released,” Mr O’Brien said.

The Minister says the report is “preliminary in nature” and “could be used to inform future investigations and considerations by government”.

Mr O’Brien said he couldn’t understand why any of that meant the report had to be kept secret.

“This was a report funded by the Commonwealth through the work of my Federal Colleague Darren Chester and there should be no reason why the public cannot get access to it.

“We are facing significant transition issues in Gippsland with the phasing out of coal-fired power stations and the Labor Government’s disastrous policy to end native timber harvesting.

“As a result we need to capitalise on our strengths which involve good agricultural soil, high rainfall and good water availability to create long-term sustainable industries and jobs for Gippslanders.

“The Government has said it is keen to help expand irrigation in the region, so it is perplexing that it would not release a report of this nature.

“It would be useful to see the full findings to have an understanding of how the government came to its conclusions about where irrigation could best be developed.”

Mr O’Brien said the publicly available information indicated the report looked at four areas, but only an area along the Avon River was considered to be a perspective irrigation district.

“The report also looked at areas along the Latrobe River, around Toongabbie and Dutson. It would be useful to see more detail as to how these conclusions were reached so they can be further interrogated.

“The government should release this report and stop keeping Gippslanders in the dark.”

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