A key federal parliamentary committee investigating irrigation efficiency will not be taking public hearings in northern Victoria, to the bewilderment of farmers and community leaders.
The House of Representatives agriculture and water resources inquiry, set up at the request of Federal Water Minister Barnaby Joyce, will not be coming to Australia’s most intensive irrigation district.
The committee has sat in Toowoomba in Queensland, Narrabri in NSW, Harvey in Western Australia, Canberra and Melbourne — but has avoided coming to the area where $2billion is being spent on modernising irrigation infrastructure.
Naring irrigator Barry Croke can’t believe the committee has visited much smaller irrigation regions and snubbed northern Victoria.
‘‘They’re quite miniscule areas by comparison,’’ Mr Croke said.
He was also disappointed there was no submission from DEWLP or from Goulburn-Murray Water.
Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said he was disappointed the committee wasn’t coming to the area, because farmers would have been able to more actively contribute.
He said he had been told by the committee that G-MW had refused to host a visit to the region.
He had offered to organise hosting himself, but other arrangements had already been made and the committee’s itinerary (including the Melbourne visit) had been locked into place.
‘‘I was surprised when the answer came back,’’ Mr Drum said, in view of the amount of modernisation work going on in the region.
‘‘I would imagine the response came from the Victorian Government as G-MW would have sought confirmation from them.’’
Committee chair Rick Wilson, from Western Australia, confirmed there was no plan to visit northern Victoria and it was not an oversight.
‘‘The committee did consider at length visiting northern Victoria, however, with only three submissions received from that region, the expense and members’ time could not be justified,’’ Mr Wilson said.
‘‘We took the next best option and invited those witnesses to Melbourne.’’
He said G-MW declined to make a submission, despite several requests.
‘‘The organisation would not appear at a public hearing or host us for inspections in the region.’’
Mr Wilson said they relied on the water provider to host inspections of their irrigation infrastructure.
VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said he was bewildered the committee was not coming to a region which was such a significant part of the Murray-Darling Basin.
‘‘How many irrigators are in Melbourne?’’ Mr Anderson asked.
State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed also expressed disappointment the committee could not come to the region, as the Goulburn Murray Irrigation district was such a major irrigation area.
She said the region had received a considerable amount of government funding for water efficiency programs, as well as the $2billion Connections project to upgrade irrigation infrastructure.
Ms Sheed said she telephoned the committee office several months ago to invite them here.
In a written statement, G-MW said it was not asked by the inquiry to host a visit of its members to northern Victoria and did not make a submission to this inquiry.
‘‘G-MW has and will of course continue to host members of parliament, parliamentary committees, industry representatives and other relevant organisations, from Australia or overseas, who seek appropriate insight into our irrigation operations and upgrades,’’ the authority said.
‘‘Should the Water Use Efficiency in Australian Agriculture parliamentary committee make such a request, G-MW would be pleased to host a future visit.’’