News

Keelty visits Katunga dairy farm

By Jamieson Salter

Dairy farmer Bridget Goulding hosted Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources interim inspector-general Mick Keelty on her Katunga property, to share her experiences of industry issues, including drought and the rise in water costs.

A dairy farmer for 33 years, Mrs Goulding has attended every meeting she could in the hopes it would one day lead to positive change.

Mrs Goulding was part of a group of four from Northern Victorian Irrigation Communities who put forward a submission to Mr Keelty in early February.

“At that meeting, dairying came up and what is required water-wise with dairying, and Mr Keelty said he'd like to have a look at a farm at some stage,” Mrs Goulding said.

She offered to give Mr Keelty a tour of her farm, which took place the day prior to a meeting held by Mr Keelty at Shepparton RSL on February 27.

“It was nice to be able to meet him and explain the situation of what's happening on a first-generation farm,” Mrs Goulding said.

Mr Keelty spent about two-and-a-half hours walking through the farm, where Mrs Goulding showed him the stock and lack of pasture, from no irrigation.

Comparison photos were presented to Mr Keelty of the present day paddocks on the farm, compared to the paddocks in 2013, when there were "no water problems".

“We shifted from New Zealand in 1997 because northern Victoria was one of the best dairying regions in the world, and it was a case of add water and grow grass,” Mrs Goulding said.

At the end of the millennial drought, the Northern Victorian Irrigation Renewal Project included water being bought from farms in return for upgrades of irrigation infrastructure.

The Gouldings sold their water in 2008, based on what was best for their business at the time.

“We were one of those farms and successfully traded temporary water from 2008 until May 2016 for an average of $101 per meg, and I have to say had some of our best years,” Mrs Goulding said.

Since then, the average price per megalitre has risen to $500, which Mrs Goulding said was attributed to off-farm investors and a lack of water.

“Until we get full transparency in the water market, we won't know by how much the water market is being manipulated.”

Mrs Goulding said she felt Mr Keelty listened attentively during the visit to her farm and genuinely cared about the dairy industry.

“I have a good feeling about him, from that meeting in Shepparton; I really, truly feel he was listening to people.”