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GWMWater finalise irrigation water sale to Federal Government

GWMWater will continue to finalise the process for the sale of 28,000 megalitres of Wimmera irrigation water to the Federal Government.
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The government has offered to buy the water at $900 a megalitre and will also pay for the decommissioning of all irrigation channels in the Wimmera Irrigation Area.

Wimmera Irrigators Association submitted an irrigator-led group proposal to sell the water to the government's Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities last year.

The department had asked for full participation from irrigators.

The association and GWMWater began distributing letters to association members on Monday last week to seek support for the offer.

GWMWater's Andrew Rose said it had taken a lot of diligent effort by many people to get to this stage.

"We should not underestimate the work in particular of the association executive," he said.

"The letters outline how many megalitres are allocated to them and how much they can expect to get once the money arrives from the Federal Government.

"In 95 per cent of cases that is going to be pretty simple but over time there have been some changes in the way people have structured their enterprises."

Mr Rose said one of the conditions was that the authority had to sign a new supply-by-agreement, which would happen once the irrigators had approved the offer.

"We have to secure 100 per cent support from irrigators and the rest of the offer conditions are pretty well administrative," he said.

"We are going to have to do some work with the project delivery agreement for the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline between the state and federal governments and GWMWater to include the decommissioning of irrigation channels."

Mr Rose said there would be no charges or exit fees deducted from the $900 a megalitre on offer.

"Through the original ballot process there was some concern by a few irrigators who were not totally supportive of the sale," he said.

"We understand they might have been concerned there would be money deducted from the $900 a megalitre by GWMWater.

"There will be no levy charged by us on the $900 nor any levies or exit fees by the state or federal governments."

Mr Rose said the decommissioning of the irrigation network was based on full restitution of channels pre-irrigation.

He said fences or roads damaged during the decommissioning process would be restored to their original condition.

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Staff and services at risk as women face health cuts crisis

WOMEN'S Health Grampians could be forced to axe staff as a result of the State Government's proposed cuts to the women's health sector.
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The government plans to cut millions from the state's community health budget, including money for women's programs directed to improving health, preventing unwanted pregnancies, countering sexually transmitted diseases and stopping domestic violence.

Women's Health Grampians program manager Emma Mahony said the Women's Health Association of Victoria had not had an increase in core funding in more than 15 years.

The association is the peak body for Women's Health Services funded under the Victorian Women's Health Program.

The Grampians group covers municipalities including Hindmarsh, Horsham, West Wimmera, Yarriambiack, Ararat and Northern Grampians and provides women with information, support and access to services and health practitioners.

Ms Mahony said the government had mooted a 10 per cent cut over the next two years.

"We have had nothing formally in writing but in discussions with the government they have said the cuts will be moderate and 'back end', that is, they would not affect service delivery," she said.

"We have had to get smarter and more efficient over time and we don't have room to slice 10 per cent off our budget.

"Being a small service, we have already reviewed how we do our work.

"It is an incredibly difficult position to be in."

Ms Mahony said the group had discussed the possible cuts with staff.

She said it would be difficult to pick what services would be cut.

"We cannot act and make decisions about this until we know what is going on," she said.

"Our work is slow and long-term but it creates massive change."

The group is one of nine women's health services in Victoria that will be affected by the proposed cuts.

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Help needed to find stolen swag

I would like to appeal to your readers for help in finding a Blue Panorama king single swag, taken from the back of my son's white Commodore ute at Green Hills Repco in June.
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The swag has two repair patches on the outside and a broken strap.

The name of the owner is on the inside of the swag and on outside tags (may have been ripped off).

Bedding includes a Biomagnetic Underlay and Doona with attached green cover, inside second doona cover, yellow with rodeo/horses pattern and brown edging.

No questions will be asked, he just wants the swag and bedding returned.

The bedding has sentimental value and cannot be replaced.

I would appreciate anyone's help with this and can be contacted on 0428 259 694.

A generous reward is offered.









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Thanks Mercury for the Campaign

Regarding the Maitland Mercury’s kerbside pick-up campaign.
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Thanks for organising this campaign.

I was really surprised that Maitland didn’t have this service when I moved here from Sydney five years ago.

I always had it growing up and was disappointed to realise that Maitland didn’t have it, while some surrounding councils did.

The free tip voucher is something, but if you don’t have the means to get your rubbish to tips, it’s useless.

I have only had the means to use mine twice.

Other years I have just had to let it go, even though I had items to throw out, as I couldn’t afford to hire a ute, and what I had was too big for my car.

I know it’s even worse for people who don’t have a car, as they can’t even take the smaller items themselves.

The logistics of getting rubbish to the tip is one thing, but to me the best outcome of a council pick-up is actually reducing the amount of stuff that goes to landfill in the first place.

They say “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, and this is so true.

Personally I find the practice of people taking what they want from my pick-up pile before it’s collected to be an excellent form of recycling and reuse.

Some councils have a resale facility where you can buy items that still have some use in them, saving them from landfill, but we don’t.

At the tip there are some stops before the tip-face where you can separate out specific items, but most stuff goes straight to the tip face, never to be seen again.

This is very sad – and in this day and age where councils are often heard complaining that we’re running out of landfill space, it’s crazy not to do everything in our power to minimise what’s going into landfill.

Some councils offer a kerbside service four times a year.

I know it’s a big expense, so cost will play a big part.

The previous council I lived in found it necessary to move from four times a year to two times per year plus an additional two times per household, on request.

This worked very well. I don’t personally think four times is necessary; twice a year would be great.

Perhaps with the option of additional on-demand “fee for service” pick-ups for those who have a lot of waste.

Again, thank you for organising this campaign.

Included is a coupon from myself and several friends who are also very keen for this service.















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Club distributes cash among Wimmera community

WINNING EVENT: Horsham Sports and Community Club president Gary Nicholas, Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty and Horsham City Bowling Club’s Derek Ballinger catch up at the grants afternoon yesterday. Picture: PAUL CARRACHERWIMMERA Base Hospital Ladies Auxiliary was one of the big winners at Horsham Sports and Community Club's annual grants event yesterday.
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The auxiliary received $3540 for new hospital equipment.

Horsham City Bowling Club received $2500, while Wimmera Regional Sports Assembly received $5000.

Horsham Sports and Community Club manager Glenn Carroll said other grants ranged from $2500 to $125.

He said the club donated 60 grants worth $80,000 to sporting and community groups.

Mr Carroll said Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty was a guest speaker at the event.

He said guests enjoyed afternoon tea before the awards presentations.

Mr Carroll said the event changed to a Sunday afternoon instead of a weeknight due to renovations at the club.

He said the grants nights had given away similar amounts of money for the past few years.

He said it was a highlight of the club.

"It's there to benefit its people and the community,'' he said.

For more on the grants event, and for the all the recipients, see the Mail-Times this week.

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Diversity increases in the Wimmera

CENSUS 2011 data shows the population in half of the Wimmera's municipalities increased, while the population in the other half has declined in the past decade.
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Statistics for the region also show increases in the past 10 years in the number of people born overseas, people who identify as indigenous, people who speak a non-English language at home, people who are not religious and people in de facto relationships.

The cost of living has also risen in the Wimmera, with the median weekly rent payment more than doubling in Yarriambiack Shire and the median mortgage monthly repayment almost doubling in Ararat Rural City between 2001 and 2011.

A Mail-Times analysis of Census data from Horsham Rural City, Northern Grampians Shire, Yarriambiack Shire, Hindmarsh Shire, West Wimmera Shire and Ararat Rural City showed the selected data generally reflected national trends.

The increased populations were in Horsham Rural City, from 17,807 in 2001 to 19,279 in 2011; West Wimmera Shire, from 3184 in 2001 to 4251 in 2011, and Ararat Rural City from 11,101 in 2001 to 11,183 in 2011.

The Wimmera municipalities which lost people each Census year from 2001 to 2011 were Northern Grampians Shire, from 12,700 in 2001 to 11,845 in 2011; Yarriambiack Shire, from 7758 in 2001 to 7088 in 2011, and Hindmarsh Shire, from 6275 in 2001 to 5798 in 2011.

The number of overseas-born people in the Wimmera increased across every municipality, despite the population decline in half of the municipalities.

Horsham Rural City had the biggest number of overseas-born people, which rose from 828 in 2001 to 902 in 2006 and 1116 in 2011.

There was also an increase in the number of Wimmera people who spoke a non-English language at home.

Horsham Rural City had the most non-English speakers at home, rising from 378 in 2001 to 590 in 2011. But the rate more than doubled in Hindmarsh Shire, West Wimmera Shire and Ararat Rural City, and almost doubled in Northern Grampians Shire.

Wimmera Development Association executive director Jo Bourke said a major reason for the increase in overseas-born Wimmera people was a push by the association and other organisations to encourage migrants and refugees to register themselves as Wimmera residents through Medicare registration.

Governments fund migrant services in the region according to the number of registrations.

Wimmera people have also become less religious in the past decade, with a decline in the number of people who identify as Christian and an increase in the number of people who have no religion across every municipality.

Census at a glance - see today's Mail-Times.

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Migrants look to escape Europe

WIMMERA Development Association will receive $70,000 from the State Government to continue the Regional Skilled Migration Program for another year.
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Association executive director Jo Bourke said she was pleased the program would continue after the government failed to provide money in the 2012-13 State Budget.

The program, which will continue until June 30, 2013, attracts professionals from overseas to work in the Wimmera's health and agricultural industries.

"I am pleased that it has been funded again," Mrs Bourke said. "It is a really important program and provides important support to regional businesses that cannot fill jobs with regional people."

Regional migration manager Janet Heard said Wimmera trades also relied on skilled migrants because of a depletion of skills in the region.

"Traditionally it has also been difficult to attract people to agriculture and to hospitality," she said. "But because we're attracting skilled migrants through word of mouth, they're settling in the area and are sharing their culture and cuisine.

"For example, the thriving Indian population attracts new people and so Stawell has a new Indian restaurant."

Ms Heard said people from the UK, particularly Ireland, along with Greece and Spain, had applied to come to Australia because of the economic downturn.

"We are getting emails every day," she said.

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Wimmera schools back chaplaincies

WIMMERA school leaders believe commonsense will prevail after the High Court ruled that Commonwealth funding of the school chaplaincy program was invalid.
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Horsham College principal Frank Spiel said the ruling on Wednesday was not an issue for the school.

"We are aware of the High Court ruling, but the Federal Government has stated that it is still in support of the school chaplaincy program," he said.

"We are without a school chaplain at the moment because our chaplain has left to take up another position, but we are advertising the position and are confident that it will be filled and funded.

"We are just watching and waiting for the situation to be analysed and legislation to be made."

Dimboola Memorial Secondary College principal Rob Pyers said the school had a student counsellor, not a chaplain, but the counsellor position was funded via the program.

"The ruling is a hiccup we are not worried," Mr Pyers said.

"We believe and have faith that commonsense will work its way to the top."

Edenhope College principal Lynden Fielding said the college's chaplain was invaluable.

Ms Fielding said chaplain Brian O'Leary was contracted to work at the college two days a week and spend two days at Kaniva College and one day at Goroke P-12 School.

She said Mr O'Leary had provided ongoing support to college staff, students and parents since 2008 and following the death of college student Chevy Derrington in 2010.

"The sustainability of the program cannot be underestimated in terms of establishing relationships," Ms Fielding said.

"Brian has become an integral part of our student well-being teams at Edenhope, Kaniva and Goroke.

"It would be a huge chasm in our service delivery if we lost our chaplain."

Member for Mallee John Forrest said the Opposition would pursue a Private Members Bill to ensure the school chaplaincy program could continue.

He said providing care and support to school students, particularly in disadvantaged areas, was extremely valuable.

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Victorian Men’s Shed Association members gather in Horsham

WIMMERA MADE: Bob Bowden of Nhill admires a restored 1928 Gardiner Aussie Fire Engine manufactured in Warracknabeal, which the Warracknabeal Men’s Shed restored. Picture: PAUL CARRACHERMORE than 120 men attended the Wimmera's first Victorian Men's Shed Association state gathering on Friday.
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Men from Geelong, Ballarat, Warrnambool, Gippsland and the Wimmera attended the event at Horsham Cycling Club.

Horsham Mayor Mandi Stewart opened the gathering, describing it as 'noisier than a CWA conference'.

"The men were all busy sharing stories," she said. "It was great to have to them here in Horsham."

Wimmera Men's Shed Network convener Geoff Witmitz said the day was about networking.

Mr Witmitz said the gathering discussed serious issues including funding options and occupational health and safety, as well as giving men opportunities to socialise.

He cited Warracknabeal Men's Shed as an example of what Men's Sheds could achieve.

When the shed first opened in 2007, the members decided to restore a 1928 Gardiner Aussie Fire Engine, originally manufactured in Warracknabeal.

"The Warracknabeal shed is amazing they know all the history of the fire engine," Mr Witmitz said.

"As well as being able to take it apart and put it together again, they also know the story and can link it back to the community."

Warracknabeal Men's Shed president David Mollison said shed members brought the fire engine to the gathering to share with other men.

"It was rusty and badly needed repairing," he said. "In the 1920s they built 85 of these, which went all over Victoria.

"This one was found in the Western District and we thought the restored engine was worthy to bring to Horsham today as a bit of show and tell."

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Wimmera residents urged to share their views on public housing

MEMBER for Lowan Hugh Delahunty has urged Wimmera residents and organisations to share their views on the state of public housing in the region.
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Victorian Housing Minister Wendy Lovell has released two discussion papers about Victoria's public housing sector: 'Pathways to a Fair and Sustainable Social Housing System' and 'Social Housing Options to Improve the Supply of Quality Housing'.

The government has invited community feedback on the papers and will also host consultation sessions across the state in the coming weeks.

The Mail-Times reported in April that the Wimmera's short-term and permanent public housing system was at breaking point and residents faced lengthy waits for temporary and long-term housing.

Wimmera Uniting Care chief executive Wendy Middleton said at the time a 13-week transitional housing program, designed to help people find long-term housing, was strained.

Almost 90 people in Horsham, Stawell and Ararat were unable to access short-term accommodation, with a three to six-month wait.

Mr Delahunty said the release of the discussion papers meant the government was a step closer to much-needed reform in the sector.

"There are a lot of organisations like Wimmera Uniting Care and the Salvation Army that do work with people looking for housing, but we would also love the private sector and individuals to look at these papers and put their views forward," he said.

"Whether you are from Apsley, Edenhope, Horsham or Natimuk you would like to think there is some sort of assistance for people.

"We want people who use the public housing system to give us their views on what we can do better."

Mr Delahunty said he had spoken to people within the private sector about the issue.

"The private sector cannot keep up with demand for rental properties," he said.

"I know from talking to them that there are long lists of people waiting to get into rental properties."

Mr Delahunty said the discussion papers were available to download at www.dhs.vic.gov.au.

He said the government would accept community submissions about the papers until 5pm on July 31.

Submissions could be made online or mailed to the Victorian Department of Human Services.

The consultation session for the Grampians region will be at the Brewery Lecture Theatre, Ballarat, from 2pm to 4pm on Thursday.

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