case study

Peter McCamish

Peter McCamish truly believes the Connections Project is ensuring the future of our region. He says our communities were built on the irrigation delivery network and water continues to drive economic prosperity and development in our region today. “What a lot of people don’t appreciate about Northern Victoria and the GMID in particular is that while we fight pretty hard for infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools and so forth, we are nevertheless reasonably well serviced. But if you think in layers, all that infrastructure sits on a layer of infrastructure below it, and that is the irrigation infrastructure system," Peter says.

“We could see that our irrigation system couldn’t compete, water was moving down stream and it was becoming unreliable, so we had to do something,” Peter McCamish.

The system was unreliable. Something had to be done

Peter is a former director of SPC Ardmona and of the Northern Victorian Irrigation Renewal Project (NVIRP), later becoming Chairperson.

He was involved in the push for the Connections Project from the very beginning and joined a group of locals who actively lobbied for its initiation.

“We could see that our irrigation system couldn’t compete, water was moving down stream and it was becoming unreliable, so we had to do something,” he said.

“It was 100 years old in places, starting to be inappropriate for modern irrigation techniques and losing a huge amount of water - about the same amount of water that Melbourne was using in a year.

“Community attitudes were changing around the country, to the point where large volumes of water losses, were no longer going to be accepted.”

Benefits include water savings and efficiency

For Peter there are many benefits of the Project, but looking back today he identifies some as key.

The first is water savings and increased efficiency.

The Project is generating water savings by decommissioning spur channels, upgrading backbone channels, automating meters to provide significantly better accuracy and automating the operation of irrigation channels.

“This is giving irrigators much better control on farm,” he said.

It is estimated an average annual water savings of 429GL will be achieved by increasing the infrastructure efficiency from about 70 per cent to 85 per cent when the Project is complete.

The water savings are a key part of Victoria’s contribution to the Murray Darling Basin Plan, providing water to Environmental Holders, whose job it is to protect and improve waterway health.

“The pleasing thing is that despite misguided criticism at the time, there were no reductions in farmer’s entitlements,” he said.

“The only way farmers lost entitlement was by making the personal decision to sell it.”

Growth - both economic and skills development

The other key benefit is around growth, both economic and skill development

“Most of the capital spent stays in the area with local contractors and employees,” he said.

“The number of opportunities local contractors and employees have had to update their skills, expand their businesses and get accredited for health and occupational safety is incredible.

“We now have local businesses operating outside of this community because they have now got the skills to be competitive.”

There’s no doubt Peter is proud of the Project’s achievements and proud to be involved from the beginning – even though it wasn’t always easy.

“I remember when the mood in the irrigation community sort of changed from being against the project to ‘maybe this looks alright’ and then you started to get people by about the third year banging on your door,” Peter said.

They were saying ‘when are you going to connect me. I want to be part of it’.

“When you look back on it, it’s all been worthwhile.”

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