Numurkah Leader 7 March 2018: A review of Goulburn-Murray Water has recommended financial savings and a series of changes aimed at transforming Australia’s largest rural water corporation.
The review panel found that GMW “needs to achieve significant annual savings in operating and capital expenditure, particularly in the gravity irrigation business, in addition to those it has already identified to maintain its overall financial sustainability”.
The panel’s recommendations, which are to be implemented by 2020, include reducing operating and capital costs, managing assets better, simplifying the business structure and developing a more transparent reporting framework.
It found that GMW needed to listen to customers and act on their feedback and called for “a customer and stakeholder engagement program to improve the trust and respect of … customers and stakeholders”.
“We want to support GMW to ensure it can meet current challenges, so it can maximise investment and grow the irrigation district to support jobs and vibrant regional communities,” said Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville, who was in Shepparton last Thursday to launch the report findings.
“This transition will support GMW in ensuring prices stay low for customers and to ensure we can continue to grow and develop the irrigation district into the future, GMW Chair Jo Anderson said.
Victorian Farmers Federation Federal Water Chair Richard Anderson welcomed the review findings and said his organisation was looking forward to working with Goulburn-Murray Water on behalf of VFF members and other water customers.
“The recommendations have been adopted. The real challenge now is how do we roll out these recommendations to get the best outcome?” Mr Anderson said.
The review of GMW’s operations was initiated by Minister Neville last October and was carried out by experts Mike Walsh, Suzanne Ewart and David Heeps.
Among the challenges the corporation faces are reduced catchment inflows due to climate change, reductions in available water as a result of the National Water Initiative and the Murray Darling Basin Plan, movements in international commodity prices and the significant costs of the Connections irrigation modernisation project, according to the review.
“I think the question has been: are they sustainable?” Richard Anderson said.
“Let’s get the organisation’s structure straight and a clear path on where they think they’re going. And lets be open and transparent.”
Included in the plan is a new “transition panel”, which will work with the GMW board to oversee the changes and will report back to the Minister.
Minister Neville’s office said no members of the panel have been appointed yet.
The review report is available on the Department of Water, Environment, Land and Planning website.