Rochester’s Justin Clearly can most likely be found, on any given morning, behind the counter of his service station and café — serving a long queue of customers in high-vis vests.
Mr Cleary and wife Rachel have run the family business — Rochester Caltex on High St — for 16 years and they have since developed the site from a ‘‘rundown old shed with a couple of fuel pumps’’.
But recently, Mr Cleary has noticed more customers, who are more-often-than-not contractors, machine operators and field staff on their way to work.
‘‘The business has been growing,’’ Mr Cleary said, and attributed some of this to the flow-on effects of the Connections Project, which has heavily invested in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District to modernise irrigation infrastructure in northern Victoria.
‘‘The people coming through are contractors, a range of truck drivers, construction workers and business people — it’s been anyone involved in the Connections Project,’’ he said.
‘‘Instead of having a normal winter cycle, where we might see a slide down, it has levelled out.
‘‘We’ve had increased trade through the normal winter lull.’’
According to Goulburn-Murray Water, this year alone, the Connections Project is spending $100 million on winter works.
The effects of the project were also felt when Mr Cleary hired new staff member Rebekah Charlton, who recently moved to Rochester from the Northern Territory.
‘‘She came down with her partner and he got a job with a local construction firm,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a prime example of how this investment is bringing people to the area and how our communities are benefiting.’’
Connections Project director Frank Fisseler said their work this winter included seeing 35km of new pipeline at seven sites, remediation of 33km of channel at 17 sites and channel automation at more than 270 sites.
Water Minister Lisa Neville said the $2 billion Connections Project was not only delivering benefits to the region’s economy, but was also creating a sustainable future for productive agriculture in northern Victoria.