Creating on-farm connections with plenty of benefits

Kristin Favaloro
One minute

When the irrigation channel supplying Paul and Lenore Mundy’s property was slated for modernisation as part of the $2 billion Connections Project, they knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to upgrade their farm and improve productivity.

The dairy farmers have been on the 305ac Cobram East property for about three years, milking a 300-strong herd as well as running cropping enterprises. Their son, Rupert and daughter Georgia also help to run the property.

With experience in modernisation under the Connections Project on their previous property, this time they opted for a co-contribution agreement. This means they contribute to deliver more extensive on-farm works.

“We knew the best way to set our farm up to create the best possible outcome with the area we had,” Paul said.

With their current channel to be decommissioned, the Mundy’s property was reconnected to a modernised outlet on another nearby channel. This included removing an old, inefficient dethridge wheel which wasn’t getting a lot of use.

On the property, the co-contribution agreement allowed for a new gravity on-farm channel to be constructed and aligned to make the most of the farm’s geographical layout, as well as developing new bays.

The reconfiguration process gave the Mundys the opportunity to work with the Project in planning for modernisation and the future of the farm. This included negotiating a better flow rate for future improved productivity after completing a Whole Farm Plan and ensuring the design met the Project’s strict value-for-money requirements in its Operating Rules.

Their property was part of the Connections Project’s first pilot reconfiguration plan, an improved and more transparent process adopted following the Reset Delivery Plan in late 2016.

For Paul and Lenore, one of the keys to the success of their modernisation was that their experiences and opinions were listened to and taken into consideration throughout the process.

Since modernising, they say it’s greatly benefited the running of the property, including increased on-farm efficiencies.

“For us, it’s been great. It means we can water much more efficiently – it now only takes us half a day to water an area of land the previously took three days,” Lenore said.

Connections Project End-to-End Project Manager Fiona MacKay said taking Paul and Lenore’s experiences into account helped deliver a better outcome for the farm and the Connections Project.

“It’s vital landowners are listened to; it’s their business and livelihood,” she said.

“Working within the new reconfiguration process ensured we were able to meet expectations and work to a timeline to deliver the best outcomes for both parties.”

Connections Project Director Frank Fisseler said the Project was committed to working with landowners to create positive outcomes.

“The Connections Project is allowing irrigators to improve their on-farm efficiency to farm smarter and more sustainably,” he said.

“We know irrigators want to access the modernised technology, so this year we have a $200 million annual program of works to deliver more upgrades to the irrigation network.”

Funded by the Victorian and Australian governments, the Goulburn-Murray Water Connections Project will deliver 429GL of annual water savings at completion in October 2020, part of Victoria’s commitments under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

What’s a co-contribution agreement?

By contributing funds to a connection a landowner may fund more or different infrastructure to what the Project proposes, such as a bigger meter or higher flow rate (if the channel has the capacity to do this). Co-contribution is where you fund the difference between what we propose and what you want.

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