The Commonwealth Government has signed an agreement with Victoria which will see $103 million of federal funding made available for irrigation infrastructure upgrades in the Sunraysia region.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment Senator Simon Birmingham and Victorian Minister for Water Peter Walsh signed the funding agreement in Mildura today.

“I am pleased to see this project has been finalised and is ready to proceed after so many years of delay under the Rudd and Gillard Governments,” Senator Birmingham said

“The Government wants to demonstrate through actions our commitment to implementing the Basin Plan in full and on time, by ensuring the needs of industry, the community and the environment are met and getting this agreement finalised is another step to do that.

“I congratulate the Victorian Government on their persistence to see this worthwhile project reach completion, as it will have significant benefits for the Sunraysia industry, economy and most importantly the community.

“This project will upgrade the Sunraysia irrigation delivery system, providing irrigators in the region with a more reliable, quality water supply, enabling them to produce higher value crops.

“As a result of this federal funding, entitlements delivering an annual average of 7,000 million litres of water will be transferred to the Commonwealth for environmental use.

“By improving the water efficiency of irrigation systems on and off farm we can deliver a balanced outcome for the economy, for Murray Darling communities and for a healthy river system,” Senator Birmingham said.

Sunraysia is home to a number of Australia’s most prominent producers of dried fruits, grapes, citrus, almonds, pistachios and vegetables.

The Sunraysia Modernisation Project will assist more than 1,900 irrigators across the Mildura, Red Cliffs and Merbein districts through improvements to existing irrigation infrastructure.

Mr Walsh said the upgrade was expected to take three years and would comprise replacing open channels with low pressure pipelines, upgrading pump stations and meters, automating channels and decommissioning redundant channels.

“The modernisation is expected to create more than 50 local jobs during construction. The investment is also expected to boost gross revenue for the region by $20 million a year,” Mr Walsh said.

“The Victorian Government negotiated strongly with the Commonwealth Government to secure this funding for Sunraysia’s irrigators.

“The Mildura Development Corporation and Lower Murray Water have worked closely with the Sunraysia community to develop a project that will boost the region’s economy, employment and long term horticultural future.

“Victoria exported $563 million of horticultural products last year, much of which was grown in the Sunraysia region.

“The Sunraysia Modernisation Project will support those farmers in increasing their productivity and profitability by providing them with more reliable and efficient irrigation infrastructure,” Mr Walsh said.