The Mirror News

Water security for Yanakie trickles closer

• South Gippsland Water director and South Gippsland Shire Councillor Jim Fawcett, Water Minister Lisa Neville, Yanakie Progress Association president Alex Moon and Chris Hughes of Southern Rural Water (L to R) at Yanakie last Wednesday for the minister’s announcement of $50,000 for a feasibility study into long-term water supply options for Yanakie.

• South Gippsland Water director and South Gippsland Shire Councillor Jim Fawcett, Water Minister Lisa Neville, Yanakie Progress Association president Alex Moon and Chris Hughes of Southern Rural Water (L to R) at Yanakie last Wednesday for the minister’s announcement of $50,000 for a feasibility study into long-term water supply options for Yanakie.

WATER security for Yanakie dairy farmers is a step closer, with the State Government offering to fund a $50,000 feasibility study.

Minister for Water Lisa Neville visited the Yanakie property of Alex and Trish Moon last Wednesday to announce funding for a feasibility study to look at the construction of a new pipeline for the area.

The study will examine long-term water supply options for farmers who are facing the combined impacts of dry conditions and lower-than-expected milk prices.

Among the options the study will consider:

  • the best ways to increase on-farm storages, including rainfall run-off modelling and climate change scenarios to check reliability;
  • a 23km pipeline from Foster, extending Victoria’s water grid to include the Yanakie area.

The local community will have an opportunity to review the options when the study is completed.

“This is about investigating how best we provide greater water security to an important area of Victoria’s dairy industry,” said Ms Neville.

“The feasibility study will look at practical solutions and report back to the community with options. It also shows the value of the Victorian water grid to provide security to regional communities like Gippsland.”

Alex Moon, who is the president of the Yanakie Progress Association, said he was very grateful to the State Government for agreeing to fund the feasibility study.

“I’ll be turning off one pump tomorrow!” he said.

The Yanakie Progress Association, largely dormant for several years, was resurrected last year, principally as an organisation to source water for local farmers.

After two winters in succession with patchy rainfall resulting in insufficient run-off, some of the Yanakie dairy farmers were starting to feel the pinch. A few farms have access to groundwater, but even this is limited.

Getting together to nut out how best to source water for farmers whose dams were running low, the group decided to do as they had done the last time Yanakie was similarly affected severely by drought. That was more than 30 years ago, in 1983, when a pump was set up on a swampy patch of farmland in the far southeast of Yanakie and water pumped to a holding dam on another farm.

The group installed several kilometres of polythene piping and pumped water 2.7km to a holding dam and then a further 1.6km to a high point in Yanakie to which farmers have ready access.

The pump was running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for several months until a more efficient pump was installed. Between the pumps and the poly piping, as much as $20,000 was spent. The money was considered a worthwhile investment to keep a community afloat, but the group has been keen to find a long-term solution to the changing rainfall patterns which are having such an impact on Yanakie.

A funding application was rejected by the Federal Government, but the State Government decided the matter was sufficiently urgent to warrant spending money on finding a solution.

Dairy farmer Jared Moon said he is hopeful the study will eventually lead to a sustainable water supply for Yanakie. He said he had been getting up half an hour earlier each day for many months to start water pumps.

Expressing his appreciation for the minister’s funding announcement, he said it would be appreciated even beyond the dairy farms of Yanakie. He explained that he and other members of the Yanakie farming community had spent thousands of dollars on pipes and pumps, which meant they were left with fewer dollars to spend on other goods and services.

The president of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV), Adam Jenkins, said it was great to see the State Government investing in a permanent solution for what has been a frustrating situation for dairy farmers.

“These are tough times for dairy farmers everywhere, with extremely poor seasonal conditions and catastrophic price cuts from major processors, so now more than ever we need to invest in water security!

“But this study, and the pipeline if it goes ahead, will go some way to relieving the pressure facing dairy farmers in Gippsland.”

The State Government’s announcement came the day after major processor Murray Goulburn announced a dramatically reduced opening price of $4.31 per kilogram for milk solids for the new season.

“The dairy industry has been gutted by the mess created by the major processors and we’re all scrambling to pick up the pieces, so we welcome the State Government’s assistance,” Mr Jenkins said.

“South Gippsland farmers and communities have been doing it tough for some time. This study is another important step towards maximising water security and certainty of supply for the region now, and into the future,” concluded Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing.

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