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A pre-feasibility study has identified land on the east side of the Avon River that may be suitable for new irrigation development into the future.

The Federal Government provided $667,000 to Southern Rural Water (SRW) to investigate the potential for new irrigation development and priority opportunities in the Latrobe, Thomson, Avon and Macalister catchments. SRW contributed a further $75,000.

Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the study aimed to identify potential projects that would create regional growth and boost local employment.

“The study commenced in early 2017 and included assessment of land capability, review of water resources, consultation with stakeholders, environmental risk and preliminary economic analysis,” Mr Chester said.

“It is a pre-feasibility study, meaning it is in the very early stages, but it’s important our community is looking toward the future and planning for new growth opportunities.

“The pre-feasibility study investigated potential development for dairy, vegetables and fodder cropping in areas east of the Avon River, and also in the areas between Toongabbie and the existing Macalister Irrigation District; along the Latrobe River between Traralgon and Sale; and the Dutson area.

“It considered supply via both gravity pipelines and pumping from groundwater or surface water supplies.

“The study has identified the Avon River scheme as the preferred option that would potentially provide greater economic benefits, servicing more landholders and involving a larger volume of water than the other options investigated.

“Supply to the east side of the Avon River into the future may be a target area for vegetable growers, resulting in concentrated demand and higher net economic benefits.”

The study also concluded that channel or pipeline supply to create new irrigation areas at Dutson, Latrobe and Toongabbie was not considered viable at this stage, although other options could be pursued to improve water availability.

Mr Chester said he was pleased Southern Rural Water was working with the community toward a plan for the future.

He said the findings were at a very early stage, and a full business case would need to be undertaken to verify the viability of new irrigation developments.

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