Tasmania's largest irrigation scheme ready to start Mon 14 May 2012 Lara Giddings Premier Tony Burke MP Federal Minister for Water Bryan Green MP Deputy Premier The construction of Tasmania's biggest ever irrigation scheme is ready to start in the Midlands. Federal Minister for Water Tony Burke and Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Sid Sidebottom today joined Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings and Deputy Premier Bryan Green to announce that final approvals had been given for the $104 million Midlands Water Scheme. Major design and construction contracts have been awarded and work will begin next month, creating 130 direct jobs during the two years it will take to build the scheme. Mr Burke said the project was a once in a life time opportunity for Tasmania's agricultural sector and would create new opportunities and jobs for generations to come. "The Midlands scheme will significantly boost food production and employment throughout the region," he said. "Once complete, this scheme will provide a strong foundation for Tasmania's growing food processing sector. Based on experiences elsewhere around Tasmania it is expected to create up to 300 on farm jobs over time." The Midlands Water Scheme takes water from Arthurs Lake and distributes it to farms within an irrigable area of 55,680ha stretching from just north of Campbell Town to south of Kempton. Water from Arthurs Lake will be taken by 34km of mostly buried high pressure pipeline down the Western Tiers to a new mini-hydroelectric plant and small holding dam west of Tunbridge. From there a network of 103km of mostly buried pipelines and sections of waterways will get the water to farmers for productive agricultural use. The Gillard Government is contributing $55 million to the Midlands scheme, the private sector $37 million with $12 million from the State Government plus financing costs. Mr Burke said the Gillard Government had committed $140 million to expand Tasmania's irrigation network through its Water for the Future fund together with $80 million from the State Government. Ms Giddings said the Midlands Water Scheme was one of the most exciting developments in Tasmania's farming history. "Irrigating the Midlands has been talked about for 100 years and now it will be a reality. The scheme will deliver water to about 350 properties from north of Campbell Town to Kempton which will give farmers the confidence to invest and diversify their businesses,'' she said. Ms Giddings said the major contracts were awarded to Tasmanian companies Hazell Bros Group and Zest Pty Ltd with Australian-based contractor, Fulton Hogan Construction Pty Ltd the other successful tenderer. Ms Giddings said work on the $14.4 million sister scheme to the Midlands project, the Lower South Esk Irrigation Scheme, was now underway and expected to be completed in about 12 months. "Combined the schemes are worth more than $118 million and about 80 per cent of the total cost will be spent locally,'' she said. "Most of the non-local spend is for equipment and materials that could not be manufactured in Tasmania. Mr Green said the development of irrigation infrastructure was an investment in the growth of food production in Tasmania and a big boost to rural and regional economies. "The Midlands scheme is the centrepiece of our water development strategy and we will continue rolling out schemes across the State," he said. "The private sector has so far committed almost $50 million through the purchase of water rights to the schemes which is a tremendous vote of confidence in our agricultural sector. "We have seen the enormous benefits irrigation has brought to the Coal Valley and the Midlands scheme will provide 10 times that amount of water. The first major scheme under the Government's irrigation expansion program was completed at Whitemore in the State's north last year. "We already have six schemes complete or under construction and a further four at various stages of development," Mr Green said. Mr Sidebottom said this is an exciting time for farmers and rural communities right across the Midlands. "This Tasmanian irrigation development breaks new ground for sustainability and productivity and offers fantastic benefits to the state," he said. Mr Sidebottom said this is an exciting time for farmers and rural communities right across the Midlands. "This Tasmanian irrigation development breaks new ground for sustainability and productivity and offers fantastic benefits to the state," he said. The Federal Member for Lyons Dick Adams also welcomed the start of the project. "This gives us enormous opportunities to renew our country communities who have been battling with drought and the downturn of some our rural enterprises including forestry and I commend Tasmanian Irrigation and look forward to this vital development getting underway," Mr Adams said. "Tasmania is going through difficult economic times at the moment and it is Federal infrastructure programs likes this in partnership with the State that will pave the way for renewing our economy."