Water Security Announcement

Darren Chester: Well it's great to be here today with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Michael McCormack. Also the leader of the Opposition here in Victoria, Michael O'Brien and Tim Bull, Member for Gippsland East, along with the Mayor of East Gippsland Shire Council, Natalie O'Connell. And the reason we're here in this world class agriculture producing region is for a very important announcement. We've been trying now for the best part of 10 years to provide improved water security for irrigators on the Mitchell River and today I can announce that the Federal Government will provide $10 million which will be matched by the local producers to finally provide water security for a lot of farmers here on the Lindenow Valley. So it's important in terms of the economic future of our region, but also important for the food security of our nation. So with those few words can I welcome Michael again to Gippsland, thank you for coming here Michael and providing $10 million from the Federal Government to support our local farming families. This is great news for our community and something that's long overdue. Thanks so much.

Michael McCormack: Yes, well thank you Darren. And this $10 million investment is just that, it's making sure that we get the right outcomes for the local growers and whether they're Bill Bulmer or his neighbours, it's going to provide such certainty, such hope and as well jobs for the future. Now in one of the earlier business cases for this project—and this project has been a long time in the making—it suggested that there was going to be $57.1 million of agricultural output an increase. So $57.1 million increase in agricultural output around this region which already underpins 400 jobs on farm and 250 jobs in processing in Bairnsdale. That's only going to increase. This $10 million investment of course as part of a $20 million project is going to make such a difference for the farmers around here, such a difference for the local economy and such a difference for local jobs. And that's what the Liberal Nationals Government is all about and I know that the local state member Tim Bull and the Opposition leader Michael O'Brien are delighted with this announcement. They want more jobs for regional Victoria and I know how hard Darren Chester has fought to get this project funded, I know how much he's campaigned and I know how much this means to him and moreover the people that he serves. This is just another announcement that the Liberals and Nationals have made to boost local jobs, to boost local productivity and I know the local Mayor, East Gippsland Shire Mayor, Natalie O'Connell will also very pleased at how this is going to underpin the economy, to make sure that the water that flows down the Mitchell can be stored on farm during those high times—potentially in winter we hope. We need it to rain; we need it to rain more. But we also need to be able to store that water when it does rain to use when we have dry times. And of course, the farmers here have experienced very dry times—the drought notwithstanding, this areas still has produced well above its output. It's still producing the very best food, vegetables that is used right around Australia and indeed, elsewhere in the world. We know that seven out of the 10 biggest vegetable growers in Australia come from right around this region. So they'll benefit from this investment, from this $10 million investment, which can only be good for the local economy and only good for local jobs.

Tim, would you like to say something?

Tim Bull: Yeah. Obviously the challenges of water security have certainly been highlighted over the recent couple of years as we've been through drought. Our farmers do so much here, our growers for our local economy here in East Gippsland. This will allow them to have the security going forward to invest, meet their markets which is critically important to their ongoing viability. And it's generally just a great outcome not only for the growers themselves but also for the whole Gippsland and Victorian economy. Everybody will benefit out of this announcement today. I certainly thank Darren for all the hard work that he's done advocating for this and Michael for coming down today and the other Michael and Natalie—everybody has been working hard for this outcome today. So it really is a great announcement for our entire region.

Michael O'Brien: I'd like to congratulate the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Federal Minister and Member for Gippsland Darren Chester and my state colleague Tim Bull for their great work in getting this off the ground. Water security means job security—it's as simple as that. And what this announcement today means is that this region will have more water security, it means more people will be confident in their work and it means there can be greater investment and that just means more jobs. This is so important for this region, this is the food bowl of Australia and to see this magnificent investment by the Federal Government, together with local growers means that we can keep Australia fit for many years to come.

Natalie O'Connell: Well I'd like to thank Mr McCormack and Minister Chester for coming and announcing this significant investment into our region. Over- well nearly half of our East Gippsland economy comes from food production and food processing so to secure this water storage means we secure jobs for our region and a boost to our economy. So thank you very much.

Question: Michael, how will the money be allocated?

Michael McCormack: Well the money is going to- the money will be managed by the East Gippsland Shire Council. The money is being allocated through the Community Development Grant. The money is good, $10 million. This is going to make such a difference to water security, such a difference to local jobs. Darren Chester has fought hard for this; the Liberal Nationals Federal Government has once again delivered.

Question: I understand farmers have to put forward a case and that money is going to be matched by this grant? Can you just talk about that?

Michael McCormack: Yes, that is the case, and I know Bill Bulmer, on whose property we are standing right at the moment, a 600-hectare property, grows some of the best broccoli and lettuce, all sorts of vegetables for domestic supply and indeed export. I know that he's looking at putting in a 400-megalitre dam, and I know that other farms besides him are thinking of doing exactly the same thing. Ross Ingram was talking this morning about what he hopes and plans to do. This is going to make such a difference for these farmers to be able to store the water on farm in times of peak flows, and then to be able to use it in times when it's dry, when they need it most, when their crops really need finishing off, when their crops are looking to that little bit of extra water that in the past hasn't been there. But in the future, will certainly be.

Question: Why did the Federal Government think it was worth backing irrigators in this area?

Michael McCormack: Because we back jobs. We back investment, we back certainty. And I know how much Darren Chester has fought for this particular project, for this particular announcement, and it's a good announcement. It's going to provide water security that farmers around here have wanted, needed, expected, demanded and most of all deserved. And so it's going to provide even more local jobs and even more local output. That can only grow the economy here and make this place even better.