Goulburn-Murray Water has refuted allegations Nationals candidate for Shepparton Peter Schwarz and his family misused $850000 in funds earmarked for a so-called ‘‘drought proofing project’’.
‘‘We can confirm this case is substantially resolved and more than two-thirds of the expected water savings have already been realised,’’ a G-MW spokesperson told The News.
‘‘While we cannot discuss specific agreements with landowners, the project actively enforces the terms of each executed agreement with landowners and expects all associated water savings to be achieved prior to project completion in October 2020.’’
G-MW board chairwoman Diane James said the organisation was taking the leaking to Fairfax Media of GM-W documents dated 2016 and before seriously.
‘‘G-MW and the Connections Project take privacy very seriously and are making inquiries into the matter,’’ she said.
Mr Schwarz said the timing of the leak intended to damage his campaign in the seat of Shepparton in next month’s Victorian election.
Speaking for the first time since the allegations were raised last week, Mr Schwarz said he was glad G-MW had acknowledged he was in full compliance with the Connections Project scheme.
‘‘It’s been very difficult on the entire family. My wife and I have felt we’ve been the victims of some sort of witch-hunt,’’ he said.
Mr Schwarz said the documents given to Fairfax Media were designed to cause maximum damage to his electoral chancesz.
‘‘It’s old information. It’s pre-2016 and (G-MW) was a different organisation then. Everything we’ve been dealing with in recent times has just been fantastic frankly,’’ he said.
Mr Schwarz said he had received substantial support since the allegation was raised, particularly from other farmers participating in G-MW’s Connections Project.
‘‘I have to say I really have to thank the enormous amount of support that flowed in on Friday and over the weekend from people who understand the issue,’’ he said.
G-MW has been in the political spotlight on several occasions this year.
Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said she had been working with the organisation to resolve issues, including the Connections Project highlighted in the leaks against Mr Schwarz.
‘‘We have recently appointed a new chair, and an interim CEO has also been put in place, and I have confidence in their ability to manage G-MW into the future,’’ she said.
‘‘The Connections Project was clearly mismanaged and was left in a mess by the former government, that’s why we completely overhauled the project announcing a total reset in 2016.’’