Local artist re-invents the wheel

David Lee

Thanks to a little ingenuity and passion for reclaiming old materials, a handful of outdated Dethridge wheels now have a new lease on life.

Thousands of these meters, once used across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID) to measure irrigation water, have been removed as part of the $2 billion Connections Project.

Some of them have wound up as fodder for Shepparton artist,Tank, 43, well-known for his passion for quirky art, love of relics and re-purposing scrap metal through his craft. It could be said he’s ‘re-inventing the wheel.’

“When my own irrigation meter was modernised, I wondered what the old Dethridge wheel was going to be used for and it got the artist in me thinking,” Tank said.

Tank gained permission from Goulburn-Murray Water to obtain 10 Dethridge wheels in 2015 toward the project and began transforming them into pieces of art.

“Goulburn-Murray Water actually donated the 10 wheels, which was very generous of them,” Tank said.

“To put these structures together there is a lot of design to get the aesthetics right and ensure they stand strong. The pipes (stems) are bent in Melbourne then they are brought to Dookie where everything is assembled to transform it into a flower and they are then brought to the designated site.”

His most recent installation has been erected at Providence Field Estate, and he has hopes to do more.

“This area is the heartland of where Dethridge wheels all started, so to be able to re-use them and display them like this acts as a legacy for past methods for water delivery and John Dethridge himself,” Tank said.

“Important works to modernise the irrigation system through the Connections Project will help to secure the future of primary produce in our region, but it is important to remember how and where it all started.”

Project Director, Frank Fisseler said the artwork by Tank was a valuable contribution to the rich history of the region.

“Whilst we are removing the old outdated wheels, there is no doubt, the old meter will be recalled as part of the region’s rich fabric of irrigation history in years to come,” Mr Fisseler said.

Electronic flow meters are being installed to provide accurate electronic flow rate and volume measurement data to the main GMW office, via a radio system in most cases. These meters provide greater accuracy and are compliant with national metering standards, unlike the Dethridge wheel.

The $2 billion Connections Project is Australia’s largest irrigation modernisation project and is funded by the Australian and Victorian Governments.

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