Emerald irrigators have voted to take over the management of their water distribution, with ownership to be transferred to irrigator-owned, not-for-profit company, Fairbairn Irrigation Network Limited.
The move follows the successful transition to local management by the St George and Theodore channel schemes last year.
While counting of Emerald voting forms is still being finalised, the responses received to date shows that support has surpassed the requirement of customers representing 70 per cent of the water allocation (by volume) be in favor of the proposal for local management to proceed.
The offer to Emerald water holders to own the scheme, including a $2.5 million separation payment, closed on March 1 after a long process of consultation that commenced in 2012.
The FIN board, which negotiated the terms of the transfer with the state government, welcomed the strong support from water holders, with chairwoman Anne Marie O’Callaghan, thanking everyone for participating in the process.
“The support for local ownership of distribution assets represents a real opportunity for water holders to generate operational cost efficiencies and maximise control over distribution prices,” Ms O’Callaghan said.
“Our goal is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the scheme, with a flexible and consultative approach to operating the business.
"As a not-for-profit entity, FIN will ensure that surplus revenues are reinvested in the scheme using local services as much as possible, which will benefit both water holders and the local community."
The Emerald channel scheme will be transferred to FIN on July 1, 2019, subject to finalisation of the remaining transfer conditions.
Bulk water supply assets such as the Fairbairn Dam will remain owned and operated by SunWater.
FIN will maintain the existing depot and office in Emerald town, with the experienced SunWater staff transferring to FIN to continue managing the day to day functions of the scheme.
“We are looking forward the next phase of the scheme, one that is tailored and responsive to the needs of the channel customers, and they will have a greater say in water pricing and future renewal and refurbishment of the scheme,” Ms O’Callaghan said.