Rally sends ‘pause plan’ message

By Country News

More than 1000 farmers and dozens of trucks travelled to Albury last Wednesday, taking the Pause the Plan message across the state.

The Southern Riverina Irrigators-led rally saw farmers take to QEII square in the heart of Albury, holding placards and protesting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

SRI chair Chris Brooks addressed the crowd just days before the federal election was called and said they would be delivering a strong message to both sides of politics.

‘‘You haven’t been listening, and we’re up for the fight,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘We want our water back and we want all parties to know we are going to fight for it.

‘‘We will not be intimidated by Tony Burke and the Labor Party with their ridiculous threats to further undermine our water rights.

‘‘Don’t lose faith, don’t stop supporting, don’t stop more people getting on board and getting involved.’’

The meeting was attended by current Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley, who was heckled by the crowd.

She asked for an opportunity to address the crowd and said she and Prime Minister Scott Morrison understood the pain of communities.

‘‘I want to tell you, I understand your frustration,’’ she told the crowd.

Following the rally Ms Ley said the Co-ordinator-General for Drought, Major-General Stephen Day, would be travelling to Finley to see the community.

‘‘I said to Major-General Day, I want you to come and see the difficulties, the challenges and the awful situation that my communities are in,’’ she said.

The rally saw many from the region travel to Albury including Cohuna dairy farmer Jodie Hay.

She attended the rally because she believes the message is still not getting across.

‘‘People are still not listening, nor are they understanding the severity of the situation, especially the impact on our rural communities,’’ Mrs Hay said.

She said the lack of national media coverage was once again disappointing.

‘‘There was no mainstream media there and yet 1200 farmers and 140 trucks made their way to Albury — 100 vegans protesting in Melbourne get media coverage that lasts for three days.

‘‘We don’t want to be disrespectful and participate in civil disobedience but once again our message went away unheard.’’

Third-generation Deniliquin farmer Alan Wragge echoed Mrs Hay’s thoughts.

‘‘I love agriculture, I love my farm and I want to stay here ... I envisage a pause of the plan and no more water for the environment until everyone sits down and works out what is going on — water needs to be brought back to the communities so we can keep our allocations and feed the nation.’’

He came away from the rally excited and rapt that so many people supported the day.

‘‘There was over 1000 people there, 140 trucks, and 85000 people have signed a petition to pause the plan — we need change. This sheer waste of water has to stop, the barrages need to be removed and we need some common sense.’’