Minister told ‘no more water’

By Alana Christensen

Irrigators have called on Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud to ensure no more water is removed from the Goulburn Valley and southern Riverina region, with producers urging him to look further north for efficiencies.

Lancaster dairy farmer Kelvin Bruce called for leadership from Mr Littleproud, saying the area was ‘‘just about buggered’’ as a result of the loss of water.

‘‘We see all this water leaving this area, going down the river,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve got the best irrigation system in the world and yet water is allowed to go down to almond farmers with buckets of money ... which is coming at the cost of our communities here.

‘‘We want leadership. We don’t know the solution ... So why is it happening? I just can’t understand it. That’s the frustrating thing about watching politicians ... To me it just doesn’t make sense.’’

During a meeting with a handful of irrigators in Lancaster on Thursday, Mr Littleproud was also pushed for reassurance regarding the 450Gl of up-water, with irrigators fearing the impact removing more water from the region would have on the social fabric of the community.

Irrigators said if the 450Gl of up-water went through, temporary prices would continue to rise, leaving infrastructure created as part of the Connections project idle.

Moving to calm concerns, Mr Littleproud said the 307-page Ernst & Young report released earlier this year was a ‘‘baseline’’.

The report, commissioned by the Federal Government, concluded that the controversial 450Gl of up-water could be delivered without causing negative socio-economic impacts.

Water leaders from the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District widely slammed the report, with GMID Leadership Group joint chair David McKenzie at the time labelling it a ‘‘shocker’’.

‘‘Now I know there’s been some angst about the EY (Ernst & Young) report,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘Now I’m not kneeling at the altar of the EY report. Make no mistake, it is a baseline and a framework.

‘‘I’ve seen the pain. I’ve seen the pain first-hand that the social and economic impacts are having ... We’ve been feeling that for some time.

‘‘It’s time for us to get the job done, refocus and get the hell out of your life. That’s what we want.’’

Mr Littleproud’s visit comes off the back of Murray-Darling Basin Authority figures that show a drastic loss of employment in the southern basin’s irrigation-dependent communities.