TRANSCRIPT: WATER SECURITY ANNOUNCEMENT AT LINDENOW, 9 April 2019
Subjects: Water Security; Drought; Funding;
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Michael, how will the money be allocated?
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.
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?
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.
Why did the Federal Government think it was worth backing irrigators in this area?
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.
The Federal Government has made a $10 million announcement today on an irrigated farm. You made an announcement last month on another irrigated farm with a $30 million funding boost for the Macalister Irrigation District. What support is there available to dry land farmers?
Well, at the moment we've got a $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund in there for farmers and we've actually made sure that any grain storage is able to be written off in the year of investment. That's an important announcement. Labor opposed, Labor opposed our Future Drought Fund. Labor said that that money shouldn't be being spent on our drought stricken farmers. Labor walked away from that deal, that deal is going to extend to $5 billion and each year, at least a $100 million will be distributed to a drought-stricken community somewhere in Australia, because it's a big country, and every year there's some part of Australia in drought. So that's the way we look at things. We look at things for the future. We look at things for certainly for the here and now, but we're investing in our farmers’ future. Whether they’re dry land farmers, whether they’re irrigation farmers, I know, I come from the Riverina in southwest New South Wales where we also have both.
Darren Chester has both. We're very proud of what our farmers do. We're very proud of the fact they have a great future, and we don't need Labor stepping in the way and trying to oppose what we're doing as far as our investments. And what I tell you what also farmers don't need, and that's green vegan activists invading their property and doing what they did yesterday. We want to make sure that our farmers can grow their food, grow their fibre, and raise their animals in the best biosecurity way that they can, that they have been doing for decades, that they will go on doing for decades. They need the confidence and hope that we're providing, they need the investment certainty that we're giving, but they also need people to play fair. They also need people to understand whether they come from the big bright city lights in Melbourne or elsewhere, they need people to understand that they're doing the right thing always, and they don't need this sort of activism getting in their way.
No worries. Thank you.
Thank you very much.
[unrelated content – chatter]
So Billy, can you just give us your full name in the right spelling, thank you.
Billy Bulmer. B-U-L-M-E-R.
So Billy, your farm here is an institution in East Gippsland. Tell us how long have you been here?
I've been here since- I've been farming in the East Gippsland region since 1960. My grandfather first bought this farm after World War 2 and so it’s been [indistinct] farm since [indistinct].
And when you here about this region being a food bowl for Victoria. How difficult has been to keep up production with the ongoing drought?
It's been extremely difficult this year through the valley, for being an unrestricted stream and the dry period that we've been having for the last two years. We estimate that we've lost between 15 and 20 per cent of cattle revenue through the valley which equates to about somewhere between 15 and $20 million.
Unreal. And so what does that mean to have this investment that could lead to some more water security for you?
Well the water security has been something we've been working on since, you know, you go back to our forefathers, 1896 the first time they tried to put a storage on the Mitchell River. Now over that journey, many people have tried it in different scenarios in dam structures. 12 years ago, I was approached and I've worked on water security for the last 12 years. We've got a proposal that sits in the Minister's office in the state government to this present day. I don't think that will be acted on and so this scenario that’s come, came about by my son saying - let's go to the Federal Member and look at the water fund there and see if we can get some money out of that.
So the $10 million which is a very minimal amount, but in this valley, at the moment, I’d say we’re turning over about $100 million. There's about a thousand odd people employed, directly and indirectly. So that $10 million to secure water for a- so a dollar in a dollar out basis is probably the best thing that's happened in that last hundred years, because we've had a lot of processors go through this region that haven't stopped because of the unsecure water supply. So going forward, now destiny is in our own hands. I think we're can make a great inroads.
Will that make is less of a gamble for you. I mean, obviously, you still love the rain but, you know, we're talking about maybe having something built for those winter months to then carry through to summer.
Yes. So what we do is a gamble every day basically. Our business is the intensified vegetable businesses through this valley. They run 24/7. Two weeks out of production, you might think, oh that's only a fortnight, but it's maybe a three month gap further down the track. So to have that security gives us the continuity that we can supply our markets domestically and internationally. And governments of all persuasions tell us how we're going to be the food bowl of Asia. So this is a great example of the Federal Government stepping up and actually giving something back to a community. They're going to have some security put in place that actually we can make that challenge happen. Otherwise, we're a long way away from it. It’s just words.
And when do you expect to start seeing some construction on the dam?
Would have been nice about six months ago when we didn't have any water, but yeah, we're in the process of having plans put forward right at this stage for on farm storage, so within the next 12 months hopefully. I know Ross Ingram, who’s a big grower in the valley is well underway with plans for another off stream storage and in the next 12 months we'll be doing the same.