Naring farmer Barry Croke gave the National Party MPs some background on irrigation in northern Victoria.
‘‘We used to have water that went into dams; we allocated it as a water right or entitlement and then we allocated it, prudently, and then we went further and we allocated it each year in such a way that we could say you can have 100 per cent this year and we’ll put 100 per cent aside next year and we will even give you sales,’’ Mr Croke said.
‘‘We smoothed out the effects of an unreliable climate — so much so that between Kerang and Yarrawonga we have 40 towns because of the underlying philosophy of prudence.
‘‘That has been destroyed; it’s been taken away.
‘‘We could have adopted the philosophy of NSW where you say: we will go for broke each year and have much greater entitlements but they are not as realible. Then you have eight towns from Moulamein to Mulwala.
‘‘What are you trying to do to northern Victoria? Reduce the 40 towns back to eight?
‘‘The water has gone, we will never have those towns prosper again until water returns,’’ Mr Croke said.
Mr Littleproud said he ‘‘got it’’.
But he also said he would not tell farmers a lie and say the rivers of gold were coming back.
‘‘I’m only working with what I’ve got in front of me,’’ he said.
Kyabram farmer Chris Hunter recalled the major changes to water policy 20 years ago when water was separated from land and carry-over was introduced. While he said irrigators were promsied everything, ‘‘we were sold a pup’’.