Future strong for Murrumbidgee Irrigation
11 November 2022
Some exciting developments were highlighted by Murrumbidgee Irrigation’s (MI) Chair, Hayden Cudmore at the organisation’s twenty fourth Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in Griffith on Wednesday.
Mr Cudmore thanked shareholders for partnering with MI and the local flood management authorities in often very difficult conditions to manage exceptional rainfall and flooding in recent weeks and acknowledged the very significant impact the conditions will have on customers production.
Mr Cudmore noted that the completion of the modernisation of the MI integrated supply system is set to deliver a host of customer benefits, setting the MIA up to be an even more attractive place to invest in irrigation-based businesses.
Shareholders were advised that the full automation of the system is expected to be completed by July 2024, with the allocation of $124 million in funding from the State Led Off-farm Efficiency Program (PIIOP). Contractors, many of them local businesses, have been engaged with earthworks ready to commence as soon as the weather permits.
“As we roll out automation across our system, we are seeing flexibility, cost savings and greater efficiencies coming to fruition”, he said.
“For instance, the move to a centralised operations centre, which can operate 24/7 when required, has been a game changer and will bring even more benefit once all areas are automated.”
Listening to customers is always key to our decision making at MI but this year we have taken an even stronger and more strategic approach to engaging with those who use our services.
Addressing shareholders, MI’s Managing Director, Brett Jones, said that a customer centric approach had yielded good results, and that the business will remain focused on working collaboratively with customers.
“I see tremendous scope to shift this level of partnership with customers to a new level as we move beyond full automation,” he said.
Mr Jones said that another focus for MI has been on applying new technologies in the operations and data analysis to support better decision making. He noted that the recently instigated One Basin CRC would place MI at the cutting edge of new research and innovations in water management.
The $50 million grant from the Commonwealth Government Co-operative Research Centre Program, together with $106.5 million from 85 partners, will fund an exciting initiative that will see MI have researchers, project managers and science students based in the Hanwood office.
“We look forward to collaborating with the CRC, because having good science and innovation that can be adopted depends on being on the ground and talking to the water managers and farmers who will be the ones to take that innovation and make it work in the field.”
On a more sobering note, shareholders were also warned of the grave threat that buyback of productive irrigation water poses to the whole region. Mr Jones noted the 2024 deadline for the Basin Plan water savings to be achieved and the ongoing threat of buybacks if this doesn’t happen.
“We are very aware that many of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Projects are woefully behind schedule, and unlikely to deliver the water offsets promised. Our region remains very exposed to buy backs if the full suite of offset projects is not delivered in time.”
Shareholders also approved several administrative changes to the MI Constitution. And it was noted that those Directors appointed at the last AGM had settled quickly into their roles and that the stability and strength of the Board had been acknowledged as shareholders supported the re-appointment for a further term of Grower-elected Director Tracey Valenzisi and Independent Director, Michael Carter.