Country News

Panel hears farmers’ basin plan concerns

By Rodney Woods

The independent panel assessing social and economic conditions in the Murray-Darling Basin visited Shepparton on October 3.

Prior to the event, panel chair Robbie Sefton explained the reason for the stakeholder consultations across the basin.

“We want to gather information about conditions from people on the ground, so that the panel’s work is balanced with lived experience and captures the views of communities on current issues as well as opportunities.

“We will achieve this through visiting communities, as well as running an online survey to capture the views of those we can’t reach through our face-to-face conversations.”

Mooroopna orchardist Peter Hall attended the Shepparton consultation and said horticulture could be heading down the same path as the dairy industry if the plan was not adjusted soon.

“The impact it has had on irrigated farming in the Goulburn Valley is severe,” he said.

“It has been very detrimental, particularly to dairy farming, and now horticulture.”

Mr Hall said the time for change was now.

“The price of water is now $600/Ml and the signs are it could get more expensive,” he said.

“In simple terms it has become clear that what was developed over a decade ago has overcooked the amount of environmental water needed.

“The amount of water that they have to deliver can’t be delivered without damaging the river system and in taking that much water has ruined dairy farming and severely threatened horticulture (in this region).

“I've been to many of these meetings and I get the feeling no-one is listening or caring about the damage being done.

“So the hope is that they might take notice that they’ve overdone this and destroyed what was the most successful irrigation district in the world.

“We hope they realise this before it's too late and dairy farming and horticulture is driven from the region (completely).”

The panel also visited Finley, Cobram and Cohuna.

For those who could not attend, the survey can be found at: https://www.basin-socio-economic.com.au/