The Drought Employment Program (DEP) continues to deliver outcomes across the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
The DEP is a Victorian Government initiative designed to provide off-farm employment for agribusiness workers affected by dry conditions.
It is being delivered by the Goulburn Broken and North Central Catchment Management Authorities.
Goulburn Broken CMA riparian and river manager Dylan McWhinney said all work was undertaken with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
“The project involves host agencies such as Shepparton Council and Parks Victoria but the CMA is responsible for the Occupational Health and Safety of the workers,” Mr McWhinney said.
“We’re staying right up-to-date with the COVID-19 work requirements and making sure the participants and community are safe.”
For one participant, Benalla orchardist Brett Fleming, the program came along at the right time.
“I needed to find work to supplement my income from the orchard and this was ideal,” Mr Fleming said.
“I have learnt new skills and also been able to put my industry knowledge to good use.”
Mr Fleming has been working at Winton Wetlands, near Lake Mokoan, eradicating weeds and building corridors for native fauna.
“It’s very worthwhile work and I’m enjoying it. My supervisor sets me a task in the morning and I get the job done without coming across too many people.”
Mr McWhinney said Mr Fleming was typical of many agribusiness workers in need of off-farm income right now.
“The incomes of many people in the agricultural sector have dried up due to the the price and allocation of water so they’re unable to run their businesses the way they would ordinarily.”
He said the program had already delivered significant gains for the environment.
“The participants have been busy removing invasive plants from river frontages and building nest boxes for threatened birds .
“The nature of the program is to deliver outcomes that benefit the environment and the community.”