Standpipe fears continue

A public meeting in Broadford on Saturday called for funding for standpipes across the Mitchell Shire. Pictured is VFF water policy adviser Charles Everist, Tooborac farmer Andrew Thompson, VFF chief executive and Mitchell Shire landowner Jane Lovell and Kilmore East farmer and BlazeAid founder Kevin Butler.

By Steph McNicol

MITCHELL residents fear ‘dire consequences’ because of a lack of State Government funding for ‘critical’ standpipes across the shire – only two of 13 are functioning.

Concerned residents gathered outside Broadford Shire Hall on Saturday morning to hear from Victorian Farmers Federation water policy adviser Charles Everist and chief executive Jane Lovell about the urgency of emergency water point funding.

Emergency water points, standpipes, are vertically standing pipes providing large amounts of water during an emergency or for domestic needs.

Ms Lovell is a landowner Mitchell Shire while Mr Everist owns land in Romsey.

“I’m also a CFA volunteer, so I understand absolutely the importance of water when we’re fighting bushfires, and the importance of water year round for farmers,” Mr Everist said.

“There are 300 standpipes, or emergency water points, across the state. They are managed by a combination of local government, urban and rural water corporations. A lot of council standpipes have been in operation since the 1960s.

“It was seen back then as an important part of the community infrastructure and an important asset for the community in the long term.

“Over the years we have seen a lot of these assets become degraded through neglect from managers, confusion over who is responsible for the management of standpipes, and it’s really robbed rural communities of an important asset that is essential.”

Also attending the community rally was Kilmore East farmer Kevin Butler, who also founded Blaze Aid – a volunteer-run organisation that helped farmers rebuild after natural disasters, particularly fires.

“We’ve got a shocking situation at the moment … the government put [standpipes] up during the drought, council continued to look after [them], but these standpipes only have a certain life,” he said.

“We’ve go something like 13 standpipes here in Mitchell Shire, 11 of them have a limited life and all are virtually unworkable.

“What’s going to happen when we have a fire like last year? A mega-fire 10 times bigger than any other. Nulla Vale or Tooborac could go up in smoke. Who are we going to rely on? Where are you going to get your water from?”

Mr Butler called on the State Government to provide what he estimated to be $300,000 to fund the standpipes in the shire.

“You’ve all got emails, you’ve all got computers. Write to the government and tell them we need $300,000 now. Not next week, not next fires – now,” he said.

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