When it comes to infrastructure upgrades in Victoria, everyone knows about the Andrews government's railway crossing removal program. But a lesser-known, equally significant Victorian infrastructure project is the $2 billion Connections Project – Australia’s largest irrigation modernisation program in history.
The railway crossing removal program has been highly successful, with many Melbourne commuters experiencing reduced travel times and improved safety conditions; In comparison, the Connections Project has had a direct impact for rural farmers, irrigators, and their communities by significantly improving Victoria's water security and saving over a billion litres of water per day.
Victoria’s Connections project has decommissioned over 1700km of inefficient and unused irrigation channels. Image: Wikimedia Commons
After a decade of false starts by successive labor/liberal governments, the project was restructured by Victoria’s water minister Lisa Neville in 2015, and was finally completed in the second half of 2020.
The Connections Project provided a much needed upgrade to Victoria’s 100-year-old irrigation network, reducing water losses from leakages and evaporation, decommissioning over 1,700 kilometres of unused channels, building new pipelines and installing modern remote control equipment.
The project management and delivery team were able to balance a range of complexities such environmental concerns, local community issues, cultural heritage, and irrigation/farming requirements – resulting in increased productivity, efficiency and flexibility for all stakeholders.
The Goulburn River is a major supplier of irrigation water for Victorian agriculture. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Despite the project having flown under the radar for many Victorians (particularly those in Melbourne), its significance cannot be understated. The upgraded irrigation network will support a sustainable future of productive agriculture and water supply for many generations to come.