THE federal government has announced funding worth $32 million to complete the East Grampians Pipeline Project.
The announcement came Sunday afternoon, where Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, who is also the Infrastructure Minister, and Member for Wannon Dan Tehan gathered at a farming property in Dobie owned by Charlie de Fegely, who farms lamb.
The funding will enable GWM Water to complete the entire project so that it encompasses up to 1500 farming properties across the region of Ararat, Pyrenees and Northern Grampians.
Prior to the announcement, only half of the project had been funded and GWM Water had to reduce the initial size of the project, meaning it would have served fewer properties.
Mr de Fegely said having the project fully funded will ensure the region can grow agriculturally and economically.
"Until this announcement was made, there was a small version (of the pipeline project) ... and some of the people would have missed out," he said.
"However, now that we've got full funding this is basically going to give everyone in this district the opportunity to get water, which is terrific.
"Unfortunately this district is no longer reliable in terms of water and we need to try and form some sort of reliability in terms of managing our risk."
The impact of not having a reliable source of water was already evident, Mr de Fegely said.
"A lot of sheep have already left this district and we've gone into crop, and crop wasn't ideal because we got frosted," he said.
"There are people wanting to bring stock and they can't because the water is not good enough."
The project will cover an area up to 530,000 hectares with a reticulated non-drinking water supply.
"The area under investigation includes Ararat, Great Western, Buangor, east to the Eurambeen-Streatham Road and south to the Glenelg Highway," Minister McCormack said.
The pipeline will be fed by Lake Fyans, the Wimmera River, Lake Bellfield, and other lakes in the Grampians region.
"There will be a competitive process where farmers will say they want to be involved in it, and through that process, any farmer that wants to actively be part of it can ... and the design of pipeline will be designed accordingly," Minister McCormack said.
GWM Water Managing Director Mark Williams said the project timeline won't be impacted by the announcement as the original plans were designed on the basis of the project being fully funded.
The total project cost is $85.2 million, of which the federal and state governments have committed $32 million each, $9 million from GWM Water, with the remaining will be provided by landowners.
Pipeline secures region's economic future
Ararat Rural City Council welcomed the announcement, describing it as the 'cornerstone' to all of the development projects it wants to achieve.
Additionally, the pipeline project itself was also named as one of the key projects the council would continue to lobby for in its 2019-20 key advocacy program.
"This is what we were after," chief officer Dr Tim Harrison said.
"Now we've got water security to the whole region.
"It drives opportunities to value-add in the agricultural sector. What we've got is some intensive industries ... and now that they've got water security they can be confident in investing.
"It also provides the opportunity for new, high-value high-yield industries like intensive horticulture.
"What we're seeing with the growth of Melbourne is the old horticulture areas like Werribee and Bacchus Marsh being put under pressure - they need new locations, so this makes us viable now.
"It's a cornerstone for growth for us."
Ararat mayor, Councillor Peter Beales, said the guaranteed water supply had the potential to expand existing industry and even help maintain local sporting venues.
"The piggery, for example, can expand now because piggeries are very water dependent," he said.
"Even sporting facilities in Tatyoon, when they lose their water supply they have to use salty water and (grass) doesn't grow."
The next steps
GWM Water managing director Mark Williams said the project will finally be able to go to the planning minister.
"The next step is, now that we've got the full funding committed, we can start planning with a bit more certainty about the exact coverage of the footprint," he said.
"We've been planning for the last 12 months, doing indicative pipeline alignments and having those environmentally assessed, and we're at the point where we're ready to lodge our referral to the planning minister and with that, we can also run a set of contract documents."
Mr Williams said the planning timeline won't be significantly impacted by the added funding.
"We've got to do a little more work on planning for cultural heritage assessment because we've done a preliminary scan of what the potential sites of significance may be, but they need to be more definitively aligned by those alignments."
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