July 20, 2016 Stewart Petering, water, Wimmera Mallee Pipeline, history, book

Stewart Petering speaks from the heart at the launch of For Life…how we got the water back. Photo by David Fletcher

By Melissa Pouliot

Last week the Wimmera lost one of its true gentlemen with the death of Stewart Petering OAM aged 85.

Stewart, a long-time farmer in the Minyip district, was councillor of the Dunmunkle and Yarriambiack shires from the mid 1980s and one of the key people behind the successful campaign to complete the biggest water infrastructure project of its time, the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline Project.

I was fortunate to spend a lot of time with Stewart during my media career, both as a journalist at the Wimmera Mail-Times and then through my long involvement with his lobbying for the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline Project.

When GWMWater gave me the opportunity to write a book about this incredible engineering feat, my goal was not to write a book about pipes but a book about the special people who made it happen. Stewart was one of those.

In my introduction to “For Life..how we got the water back” I liken the story of the pipeline project to something Clint Eastwood would make into a movie.

“If Clint Eastwood was directing a movie of this book…he could just keep it simple and strong. That’s what he likes. That’s what works. Stewart Petering’s steady gaze scanning the horizon, the lines on his weather-worn face speaking volumes about the harsh realities of life in a dry landscape that relies on water, and plenty of it, for life.”

In one of life’s strange coincidences we had to relocate my book launch in November 2011 from the banks of Lake Hindmarsh to the Wimmera Mallee Pioneers Museum at Jeparit because it was raining, and I remember worrying that Stewart, who was quite elderly would be cold. But he didn’t skip a beat, and had us all enthralled when spoke from the heart as part of the launch.

Stewart’s words from my book end his story and his legacy perfectly.

I’m just thankful that I was able to be part of it. I really enjoyed it – even though there were a few knockers along the way I never worried because I believed that it should be done and that it could be done. The Wimmera Mallee Pipeline is about keeping rural communities going. I have a great sense of satisfaction to see that it has come to fruition.

books, Wimmera, Stewart Petering, pipeline project

Stewart and Marian Petering at the launch of For Life…how we got the water back. Photo by David Fletcher