Funding application process – case study
About the program
The Off-farm Efficiency Program is a $1.54 billion Australian Government funding initiative designed to provide long-term benefits by improving water infrastructure and reducing water losses. Water users and the community will also benefit from better water reliability and the creation of job opportunities.
Individuals and entities in the irrigation, urban and manufacturing sectors across the Murray Darling Basin are eligible to apply for funding.
About Murrumbidgee Irrigation
Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI) is one of the largest private irrigation companies in Australia. Located within the Murray-Darling Basin, it delivers water to agricultural customers through an extensive integrated supply and drainage network. MI’s services have helped create a highly productive agricultural region known as the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA).
The MIA forms part of the Murrumbidgee Valley, covering 378,911 hectares, of which an average of 190,000 hectares is irrigated. The MIA has a population of 50,000 people, with many working on farms, and in industries, or businesses tied to these sectors.
About the MI funding application
In October 2021, MI applied for Off-farm Efficiency Program funding under the state-led stream, seeking $124 million to deliver the ‘Murrumbidgee Irrigation Automation Finalisation’ project by 2024.
This project seeks to complete the modernisation of water infrastructure across the MIA and deliver more than 6,250 ML of water recovery for the environment.
It consists of five components:
- the automation of control structures (regulator/offtakes/escapes)
- the replacement of metered outlets
- the conversion of unmetered outlets to metered outlets
- the construction of a new surge reservoir (the Roaches surge reservoir)
- open channel refurbishment, piping and reconfiguration.
The project involves:
- upgrading 1,500 monitoring sites
- automating 360 regulators
- refurbishing 20 km of open earth channels
- constructing a new 5,000 ML Roaches surge reservoir.
How the NSW Government supported the application
As part of the funding application process, the NSW Government assisted MI to develop its funding proposal for consideration by the Australian Government.
In line with the program’s requirements, the NSW Government also managed a public consultation process where stakeholders provided feedback on the proposal.
An independent Off-farm Efficiency Program Expert Panel (the panel) then reviewed the proposal against the socio-economic criteria agreed to by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council and determined the proposal would deliver a net neutral to positive socio-economic outcome.
The panel considered the following when making its recommendation:
- information prepared by MI and NSW Government
- public feedback on the expected socio-economic outcomes of the project, detailed in the ‘What We Heard’ report
- economic impact modelling and cost benefit analysis.
Once the panel made its recommendation, the NSW Government provided a ‘Statement of Reasons’ detailing NSW Government support for the project, as part of the funding application to the Australian Government.
The NSW Government then continued to work with MI to respond to the Australian Government’s requests to clarify application details during their technical review process.
Benefits of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation application
The finalisation of MI’s water infrastructure will improve water delivery and delivery performance across the MIA to:
- better meet industry needs
- enable regional agribusinesses to maximise sustainable production
- invest in regional communities through local opportunities
- deliver water for the environment.
Once complete, the project will support agricultural production, the regional economy and the environment, and will help build a more resilient, adaptable community able to thrive in a water-constrained future.
The project will improve the efficiency of the water network in the region, enabling MI to better meet customer demands (i.e., ensure water is available when it is needed) and more accurately measure water consumption.
Automation will also reduce MI’s operational costs and ensure a safer workplace through reducing travel and manual handling.
The establishment of Roaches Reservoir will improve water supply security in the MIA to support regional resilience and growth, facilitate the development of new industries and ensure a secure water supply for towns in times of drought.
Economic modelling indicates the project will provide a significant boost to the local economy by creating more than 200 jobs and providing more than $15 million in wages and salaries.
After considering the application, the Australian Government announced in January 2022 that MI was successful in their application for $124 million to fund the ‘Murrumbidgee Irrigation Automation Finalisation’ project.
The NSW Government will continue to work with Murrumbidgee Irrigation to provide oversight and management of the project.