As the year draws to a close, I have been reflecting on 2021 and it made me realise how far we have come as an organisation and what we have been able to achieve despite the challenges we have faced due to the pandemic.
While many of our engagement activities were cancelled or transitioned to online, I am proud we still managed to deliver for our customers. In 2021, it was still business as usual.
Our call centre alone answered a staggering 31,472 calls to November 26, while our water delivery consultants received 10,273 customer calls from Waterline this season.
And our employees did this while adapting to staff shortages, working from home and upskilling new staff members to cope with demand.
This year, we also delivered more than 55,000 labour hours in what has been one of our biggest maintenance programs.
For example, the $8 million Winter Works program involved roughly 90 staff maintaining and desilting almost 150km of channels at about 50 sites, carrying out construction at more than 40 sites and weed treating 90km of channels at 24 sites.
Coming off the back of a season of increased water deliveries, this year’s maintenance program will go a long way to ensuring our vision of a fair, affordable and efficient irrigation delivery system this season and for decades to come.
During this time, our proposal for a landmark reduction in our revenue requirements was endorsed, allowing a roll-out of valuable changes to our tariff structure.
We issued new-look bills to customers with fixed charges to help them better understand their accounts.
Our Loddon Valley customers benefitted from a new payment approach that saw multiple accounts consolidated into one.
In other good news this year, the Irrigators Share Distribution saw thousands of irrigators better off as they started receiving water shares in October following the successful completion of our Connections Project last year – a massive, $2 billion commitment funded by the Victorian and Australian governments, in partnership with irrigators that recovered 429GL of long-term average annual yield of water.
Almost 7000 customers received water shares, while more than 6000 will receive a credit on their account in July 2022.
We manage Australia’s largest irrigation delivery network, and the completion of the 14-year Connections Project has seen greater efficiencies in water delivery and use for our customers.
Building on this success is the next step in our region’s irrigation future – GMW’s Water Efficiency Project.
This will deliver 15.9GL in water savings by modernising or decommissioning more than 250km of channels and upgrading or rationalising more than 1000 outlets across the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
More than 1000 customers will see improved irrigation standards, and around 900 regional jobs are expected to be generated during construction.
Investment in off-farm infrastructure in the GMID supports the regional economy and the viability of our district now and into the future.
And as we look ahead, 2022 is shaping as a strong year for our irrigators.
Seasonal determinations are at 100 per cent of high-reliability water shares in all GMW systems, with the Broken and Bullarook systems also having 100 per cent of low-reliability water shares.
We expect the strong resource position to continue through summer, as the Bureau of Meteorology recently determined there was a 55-70 per cent chance of above-median rainfall across the GMW region between now and February.
On that positive note, I would like to finish this final report for 2021; congratulate all our staff for their work during the year; and thank you, our customers, for your input, your support and your patience during our ongoing works programs and wish you all a safe, happy and peaceful Christmas with your families and friends.