Meeting discusses water policy

By Sophie Baldwin

Farmers and members of the Cohuna community were given the chance to discuss federal water policy when State Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh and Federal Nationals deputy leader Bridget McKenzie spent an afternoon in Cohuna last week.

Cohuna, like many towns across the country, has been decimated by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Water leaving the area has seriously affected the once thriving dairy industry, which is now impacting on businesses, schools and the community in general.

The majority of the irrigators in the room represented the dairy industry and, in a show of hands, two-thirds indicated they were seriously considering leaving the industry within the next five years.

Every person in the room agreed not another drop of water should leave — and many were angry and incredulous the government would even consider taking another 450Gl from the system.

Senator McKenzie said she received the message loud and clear and would be taking it back to her party.

‘‘There is a lot of pride in this room today and my job is to take all this back, the clear message aligns with my own personal views — one more megalitre leaving this community is one megalitre too many,’’ Senator McKenzie said.

‘‘Dairy is my state’s industry and the biggest regional employer in the country. There has already been severe and significant long-term damage to the industry and the broader community.’’

Mr Walsh said it was ridiculous the MDBA was focusing on an additional 450Gl when it physically could not get anywhere near that volume through the Barmah Choke and down the river.

He is also calling for a review of carryover water, stating environmental water appears to benefit more from the ruling than irrigators.

Mr Walsh said the delivery of 750Ml of water per day through Hipwells Weir out into the forest in a dry year was totally offensive.

The visit was organised by Primary Partners managing director Andrew Gibbs, who wanted to give farmers and members of the community a chance to air their concerns direct to government officials.

‘‘I have been disappointed at the lack of action from local government and other government agencies, so as a local lobbyist I felt it was time for some common-sense action,’’ Mr Gibbs said.

‘‘Senator McKenzie was quick to respond to my invitation and we are grateful for her time.’’