By ADAM LUITJES

THE positives of a proposed multi-million dollar expansion of Sunraysia’s irrigation infrastructure will flow throughout the region, according to prominent dried fruit grower Warren Lloyd.

Mr Lloyd met with representatives of Lower Murray Water (LMW) on Tuesday, in relation to the next stage of the Sunraysia Modernisation Project (SMP).

‘Sunraysia Modernisation Project 2 Strengthening Sunraysia’ (SMP2) aims to build on the success of SMP, which helped modernise the district’s 100-year-old irrigation infrastructure by pipelining channels.

The project also allowed for irrigation water delivery 365 days a year to 65 percent of Sunraysia.

Mr Lloyd – who owns 100 acres of dried fruit – said there would be many benefits to come from SMP2.

“From what I understand Mildura was set up to relieve the pressure from Melbourne when the gold rush had finished,” Mr Lloyd explained. “Alfred Deakin was looking at turning a piece of the State that wasn’t utilised into a viable community.

“He was successful in doing that, but what we are left with is a land infrastructure that was set up 130 years ago, and it doesn’t meet the needs of modern irrigation.

“This expansion is the next phase and makes a lot of sense. I would have thought the wider community wants a strong Mildura, and Mildura definitely rides on the success of agriculture.”

A fifth generation farmer in Mildura, Mr Lloyd – who is also chair of LMW’s Strategic Advisory Committee – said he fully supported the initiative.

“The more water that is going through my pump, past my gate to service something else is going to reduce the cost on me, so I am absolutely for it,” he said.

Following on from the award-winning SMP – which was completed late last year – Registrations of Intent (RoI) have now opened for agricultural developers to participate in SMP2.

A private sector-driven investment, SMP2 is hoping to receive co-funding through the Federal Government’s National Water Infrastructure Development Fund – Capital Component.

In November, LMW received $1.7million from the Federal Government under the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure to develop a feasibility and development business case in the hopes of securing funding.

Since that time, LMW representatives have been busy engaging with customers, possible investors and stakeholders, with RoI submissions to close on Friday, January 20.

LMW executive manager Customer and Stakeholder, Andrew Kremor, said the clock was ticking ahead of the final business case submission date in mid-March.

“The timing is really important because we only got the $1.7million in funding from the Government for the business case in mid-November, so once we got that we have been running really hard,” Mr Kremor explained. “The other bookend is that we need to have our business case in by the middle of March, so everything has got to happen in that space of time.

“It’s first in best dressed for this money, so if we miss it, potentially someone else will get it, and it’ll go to another district.

“It’s too big an opportunity to lose at this stage, which is our view.”

With one week of the RoI process to go, Mr Kremor said SMP2 has been well-received.

“What we are trying to do is let people know what this project is, and how it affects potential customers and the community,” he said. “Clearly if you put potentially hundreds of millions of dollars investment into an area, you are going to get flown effects, and everybody seems to win out of that.”

LMW expects target areas of SMP2 to include in-district, South of Red Cliffs, West of Merbein and Cullulleraine, with possible benefits of the project to include cost, service and security.

“If you have the same corporate cost and it’s spread over double the base, then you can halve the cost per unit (of water),” Mr Kremor explained. “That’s pretty straight forward, and we think there will be other operational cost benefits.

“We will put new infrastructure in, so wherever that goes the existing customers around that will have some benefits.

“The other one, which is quite important, is when you put new dams, pipes and pumps in, then when you have breakdowns, you have a greater capacity to cover those breakdowns.

“If a pump goes down in one system, you can potentially cover that with pumps from another system, so that security aspect is also very important.”