Irrigators raise water concerns

By Jamieson Salter

Environmental flows, floodplain harvesting and water allocation were key issues addressed by local farmers at a public meeting in Shepparton, part of an inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Interim Inspector-General of Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources Mick Keelty has been attending town hall sessions across the Goulburn Valley to gather feedback he will compile into a report, providing recommendations to a ministerial council by Tuesday, March 31.

From 10 am on Thursday, the Shepparton RSL filled with about 150 local farmers who came to hear Mr Keelty address the key issue of water sharing across states.

Mr Keelty questioned why the basin's water had been divided by state borders and said the draft report recommended a re-evaluation of water accountability.

"I'm asking the M-DBA to recalculate the 900 Gl available, whatever quantity it ends up being; the question is how it's released and to who," he said.

Mr Keelty said he wanted to create "a single point of truth" for farmers across the Murray-Darling Basin, rather than having different states answering to varying bodies.

He then allowed the crowd to comment and a room full of hands went up to speak their minds.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks led a second meeting where he commended Mr Keelty's character in comparison to that of politicians.

"There's a lot of corporate bastards stealing your water," he said.

"They'll buy water in our region and do inter-valley transfers."

Mr Brooks then collected the names of people interested in forming a committee to represent Victorian farmers.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed agreed with the idea and said farmers needed to come together when it counted.

"The thing politicians need is one lobby group to get a plan of about four or five things that really matter," she said.