A STORM is brewing at the foot of the Western Tiers as a Cressy farmer digs in to save highly productive agricultural land from being used for a proposed buffer dam for the Northern Midlands Irrigation Scheme.
Oliver Scott-Young, from Palmerston at Cressy, is not against the Northern Midlands scheme or the use of dams, but questions the need to flood valuable productive agricultural land to build a 580ML buffer dam when an existing Hydro dam sits within 5km of the site.
A pipeline is planned to deliver water via gravity feed out of the Poatina Tailrace and a short offtake channel to the buffer dam.
“We are not against the scheme, and I make that point very clear, we support it, but we do not support the dam on our property when there is an existing solution nearby,” Mr Scott-Young said.
Up to 25,500ML of high-surety irrigation water is set to flow to Northern Midlands farmers after the Government approved the business case for the $146.88 million project.
The project was redesigned after irrigators’ demand increased from 13,000ML to 25,500ML during the water sales process.
No offer has yet been made on the land required for the buffer dam.
Tasmanian Irrigation chief executive officer Andrew Kneebone said no decision has been made about location of the buffer dam because there are a couple of options to consider.
“A dam makes the scheme work because the Hydro re-regulation dam is not our asset.
“We are at evaluation stage to determine best options; it is our preferred location, but we are working through issues with meaningful discussion.”
“We are not arrogant about this issue,” Mr Kneebone said.
Mr Scott-Young, who has a degree in agricultural science, worked as an agronomist and served in the Royal Australian Air Force before returning to the Palmerston sheep-and-cropping enterprise with father Bill and older brother Tim.
The family has been farming the property for five generations and they will be holding an on-farm ram sale on November 24 for their Coopworth Stud.
“The proposed buffer dam would take away an entire half-circle centre-pivot, which is currently being used to grow poppies this season, along with other crops in our rotation.
“They want about 20ha of high-value fully developed agricultural land.
“It doesn’t make sense to destroy that simply to subsidise other irrigators.
“Every effort should be made to protect productive agricultural land, be it ours or any other Australian farmers.”
Tasmanian Irrigation is investigating building a 580ML buffer dam on the fertile land.
“The obvious place to draw holding irrigation water is from the Hydro re-regulation pond within 5km of the site,” Mr Scott-Young said.
“It’s already there holding water from the tailrace from Poatina.”
The new buffer dam will feed water into the NMIS and pump it towards Campbell Town and Ross delivering water along the way.
“We are really disgruntled that an easy solution is to take high-value agricultural land off us to subside other scheme users,” Mr Scott-Young said.
“It will save taxpayers money to use the Hydro dam.”
Mr Kneebone said the Hydro tailrace and its dam were not an option.
“It’s at a lower elevation requiring more pumping of water, which would add half a million in costs to all irrigators,” Mr Kneebone said.
“That’s about an extra $20ML. The new proposed dam allows for a successful scheme.
“We need to access the site to do geotech work to dig a series of holes to evaluate the site for the dam.
“We can’t make a decision without that.”
“We have tried multiple times to work with the farmers, to try and engage them.”
“We are not looking to disturb the poppy crop.”
“We are not in a position to make an offer because a decision has not been made about the site.”
TI hopes to start construction of irrigation scheme in about September 2022, with first water forecast to flow in October 2024.
Farmers south of Cressy, including Macquarie, Barton, Isis, Conara, Campbell Town and Ross will all be eligible to take water from the scheme.