Transformational water infrastructure projects for regional communities could now become a reality, with an extra half-a-billion dollars added to the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, announced the fund’s increase of more than $500 million will be used to work with state and territory governments to identify and co-fund the construction of new water infrastructure projects across regional Australia.

“This announcement will turbocharge the construction of water infrastructure in regional Australia because our agricultural industries expect it and our communities deserve it,” said Mr McCormack.

Mr McCormack said water is the lifeblood of regional communities, and this historic injection of funds will be a game changer for many communities.

“This funding pipeline represents the single biggest commitment to investment for building water infrastructure across the nation,” Mr McCormack said.

“Access to secure and affordable water is critical to the lives of many Australians in regional areas, and investment in water infrastructure is vital to keep Australia thriving, especially during tough times of extended drought.

“Having the right water infrastructure in the right place will provide greater opportunities for new and expanded high-value irrigated agriculture.

“This is not just about storing water in times when it is dry; it is also about protecting communities through flood mitigation in times when it is incredibly wet.”

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, said water means wealth and jobs in the regions.

“As a former rural bank manager, I know the value of a megalitre of water to a rural community,” Mr Littleproud said.

“We’re proud to be delivering water and wealth to rural communities.”

The Fund’s expansion to more than $1 billion, as well as the existing $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility program, means more than $3 billion is now available from the Federal Government to support state and territory governments and their project partners, to build new water infrastructure and provide greater social and economic opportunity for Australians.

“From Myalup in regional Western Australia to Queensland’s Rookwood Weir, we believe in dams and water security, and are investing to make it a reality for regional Australians,” said Mr McCormack.

“This announcement is exciting for regional Australians, who understand full well the importance of water storage.”

The expanded funding includes:

$2 million for the North and South Burnett regions (Queensland)

A $2 million commitment has been made for a feasibility study to investigate increasing water supply and security in Queensland’s North and South Burnett regions.

Federal Member for Flynn, Ken O’Dowd, said the study would help to drive economic and social growth in regional Queensland.

“The feasibility study is great news for farmers in the region, as it will examine a range of options and identify solutions to increase water supply that would underpin an expansion of irrigated agriculture, delivering new jobs and economic growth in the North and South Burnett regions,” Mr O’Dowd said.

“Through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund, we have committed over $426 million to get construction underway on a series of key water infrastructure projects in Queensland.”

$1 million for the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme (Western Australia)

The government has committed up to $1 million to finalise the regulatory approvals required for the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme to progress towards construction.

The approval process will include developing the final business case, design and Environmental Impact Statement for the agricultural irrigation scheme situated in the Manjimup-Pemberton region of Western Australia’s south-west.

“In Western Australia, one beneficiary of this $30 million feasibility component will be the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, which proposes construction of a dam and supporting irrigation supply infrastructure to reliably deliver 923ML of water annually to support new irrigation in the Manjimup and Pemberton regions, benefiting the horticulture, livestock beef and nursery industries,” Mr McCormack said.

Federal Member for O’Connor, Rick Wilson, welcomed the announcement, saying the project — subject to receiving essential planning approvals and detailed design work — stood to generate a number of benefits for the state’s south-west region.

“If constructed, the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme will increase water availability to our job-producing regional industries and create up to 150 direct jobs, 75 indirect jobs and up to 125 construction jobs during the estimated two-year construction period,” Mr Wilson said.

“Greater water security will provide growers with the confidence to invest in their business to underpin an expansion of high-value irrigated horticulture of up to 1675ha.”

$250,000 for the Coldstream Recycled Water Pipeline (Victoria)

A new commitment of up to $250,000 to help progress the Coldstream Recycled Water Pipeline Scheme in rural Victoria would help it become construction-ready.

Mr McCormack said the $250,000 commitment to the Coldstream Recycled Water Pipeline Scheme would assist with finalising the project design, regulatory approvals and operational arrangements.

“The proposed Coldstream Recycled Water Pipeline Scheme, located adjacent to the Yarra River between Coldstream and Healesville in Victoria, involves construction of two Class A water treatment sub-systems, and a pipeline and distribution network to deliver up to 1500ML of recycled water to producers,” Mr McCormack said.

Federal Member for Casey, Tony Smith, welcomed the announcement.

“If built, agricultural production, tourism and seasonal employment relating to food and fibre all stand to gain, helping support our exports such as cool climate wines, strawberry farms, fruit orchards, and livestock,” Mr Smith said.

“Subject to finalising the project design and operational arrangements, and receiving all necessary regulatory approvals to proceed to construction, the Coldstream Recycled Water Pipeline Scheme is expected to provide businesses covering approximately 1000ha in the region with improved water security and reliability.”

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