Vignerons have a pipe dream

Water quest: Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan with Heathcote vigneron Ian Hopkins, discussing the proposed pipeline.

Central Victorian vignerons are looking for a pipeline to supplement their water supplies for their growing vineyards.

The growers say the lack of a good quality water supply is stifling development of the popular Heathcote wine region.

A group of 32 vignerons, olive growers and farmers are seeking government support for a pipeline that could deliver about 600 megalitres annually to the properties on the west side of the Mt Camel range.

Heathcote Winegrowers Association president Ian Hopkins said an initial feasibility study developed by Goulburn-Murray Water had produced three options for an improved water supply, which would be sourced from Waranga Basin through the Waranga-Mallee channel.

The group is pressing the Victorian Government to support the submission to the Federal Government for funding under the national water grid.

Preliminary estimates put the cost of the project between $10 million and $13 million, but the wine growing group wants a detailed study to come up with a preferred option, detailed designs and an estimated cost.

Mr Hopkins, who also founded Tellurian wines in 2002, said the landholders were prepared to contribute toward a scheme which would provide quality and reliable supply.

On his own 30 hectare property, his water supply largely comes from a deep bore which is high in iron, resulting in blockage of his irrigation drippers.

The three options being considered are:

  • Tapping into an existing pipeline on the eastern side of the Mt Camel range.
  • Tapping into the Goldfields super-pipe, which connects the Waranga Western Channel with Ballarat and Bendigo.
  • Creating a new pipeline along the easement occupied by the Goldfields pipe.

Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan is pressing the Andrews Government to submit the project for Federal Government funding.

She said the project would support existing wine growing businesses, enable their future development and provide a secure source of water for Toolleen Recreation Reserve.

Ms Ryan met with Mr Hopkins on December 7 to discuss the project.

“This is a brilliant community project,” she said.

“If we can get it off the ground it will not only guard growers against climate change, but it will give people the confidence to expand their plantings.

“To get this project to the next stage, we need the Victorian Government to submit it by January to the Federal Government for funding.

“Doing a detailed business case on this proposal is a no-brainer. The Victorian Government is not required to do anything at this stage, other than submit it to the Commonwealth.

“Not only would it help underpin the substantial investment growers have made into the Heathcote wine district, but it could also provide a secure source of water for the Toolleen Recreation Reserve to ensure the Mt Pleasant Football Netball Club can continue to play through drought.”

Parliamentary Secretary for Water Harriet Shing said the Victorian Government had a draft submission for discussion and had raised this project with the Commonwealth.

“We look forward to hearing from the Commonwealth about their requirements for the feasibility so we can advocate for the pipeline work,” she said.

“We want to help them to refine their submission so they put forward the most compelling case to the Commonwealth.’’