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Key Water Blog

Murrumbidgee Irrigation response to 4Corners Cash Splash

MI response to customers on unbalanced 4Corners program Cash Splash
Dear customer
You may have seen media stories over the past week in response to the 4Corners program “Cash Splash,” which aired on Monday, 8 July.
We agreed to be interviewed by 4Corners and assisted with their visit to the region to highlight the positive impacts of investment in the MIA and to demonstrate the efficiency of our customers and our operations. We are disappointed on behalf our customers, our staff and the irrigation communities we support, that the program failed to give a balanced assessment of the various water efficiency measures which have led to genuine and sustained water savings delivered to the environment from the MIA.
We would have appreciated the film crew speaking to some irrigators or community members who were able to share the benefits of the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) works, with whom we put them in contact. This would have provided the program with some balance.
Many hundreds of local farmers have benefited directly from the investment through PIIOP and have used it to boost their water efficiency and productivity. By keeping irrigated production intact, whilst still meeting the broader goals of returning water to the environment, irrigation farmers have supported local communities, helping to underpin economic activity and local employment opportunities. This long-term planning and investment will help to set our region up for the future.
MI is proud of its role in delivering PIIOP and at all times the company, and our employees, have operated with complete transparency and integrity. The PIIOP programs are extensively scrutinised and independently audited by the Australian Government prior to works being accepted, at milestones during the works and after the projects are completed. In each audit MI and our participating customers have been found to be operating properly.
Efficiency programs have delivered over 50,000 megalitres of water back to the government for use each and every year as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. These programs are providing benefit to the environment, MI and our customers and communities. Investment in communities yields results. We have seen this first-hand over the last six years through the $347 million of infrastructure investment in our region via PIIOP. The PIIOP funded projects have been extremely successful and the combination of our system works with on farm changes has enabled even greater innovation and improvement.
PIIOP funds have only been used to modernise irrigation infrastructure to deliver water use efficiencies. The replacement and modernisation of the old manually operated system results in an improved operation capability of our channels. Some additional works have been concurrently undertaken to allow the new control structures to be utilised to their capacity. These works are outside the scope of the PIIOP funding agreement and have been fully funded by MI and the customers involved.
The key driver for the Wah Wah Stock & Domestic project was to support the future of the stock and domestic area with a sustainable, modern and reliable water supply capability.
An extremely inefficient 1,590km open channel system was replaced with a new 270km pipeline which supplies filtered pressurised water to 62 properties in the Wah Wah district. Farmers are benefiting from the pipeline project through improved levels of service, with year-round access to the river and bores, filtered, pressurised water supply and measured water use, which can be remotely monitored. All MI customers will benefit from operating and maintenance savings, lower future refurbishment costs and conveyance water savings.
The old open channel Wah Wah system required approximately 12,000 megalitres of water to deliver around 2,000 megalitres of allocation due to losses from evaporation, seepage and unauthorised access. Such high levels of wastage were not acceptable in any delivery scheme. The project will result in 9000 megalitres of efficiency savings water being transferred to the environment.
MI has always supported the triple bottom line outcomes of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan: social, economic and environmental.  We do not support a plan that focuses on water recovery at all costs. It is our belief that water buyback is a blunt instrument that hurts communities and any further recovery should only be taken through water savings projects and infrastructure upgrades.  This means we want a Plan that gives us healthy rivers, healthy communities and a continuing capacity to produce food and fibre for the nation. The PIIOP spend that has occurred over the past six years has kept money in our community, kept jobs, and kept contractors employed.
We note calls for a Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which would in our view be a waste of taxpayers’ money and undermine the progress which is being made through the Plan. We do however, support the review which has already been carried out by the Productivity Commission, which clearly stated that the Basin Plan is working and progressing. The Productivity Commission recommended a series of actions, which are now starting to be implemented by the relevant authorities.
In summary, we are disappointed by the attacks being levelled at irrigators not just in the MIA, but throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. Our irrigated industries are key to sustainably producing the fresh produce and natural fibres upon which Australia’s communities and economy depend, and they deserve to have their industry portrayed fairly.
The MIA is a fantastic example of what a region can do when it has access to productive water, with our producers and industry working together to adapt to the changing nature of water use. We all want a healthy working Basin to support the growth and opportunity in our region, and have always been intent on protecting, promoting and enhancing the natural assets of this region.
Whilst we recognise that it is a complex and difficult task, MI believes that it is essential that all parties continue in good faith with the implementation of the Basin plan which provides certainty and confidence for our region.

Brett Jones
Chief Executive Officer
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