News

Farmers waiting for Keelty’s basin report

By Country News

Regional communities are eagerly awaiting the results of a report by Murray-Darling Basin interim inspector-general Mick Keelty, as the March 31 deadline approaches.

At a recent meeting in Albury, Mr Keelty described water management in the basin as confusing and difficult.

Southern NSW and northern Victorian food producers have placed their hopes in the outcomes government responses to the report may yield, as many have questioned the future of the industry.

Farmer Geoff Moar from Oaklands in the Southern Riverina has been growing food and fibre for Australian and international consumption for 53 years and said he couldn't believe how governments were crippling a once thriving industry.

“We are relying on Mr Keelty in his upcoming report to recommend changes that can save our rural communities,” Mr Moar said.

“He has acknowledged that decision-makers have been too slow to react; from a producer’s perspective it’s hard to accept that we allow the equivalent of 1.6 Sydney Harbours to evaporate in the Lower Lakes, then allow huge quantities to pour out to sea, but do nothing about it.”

Mr Moar said nearly 40 reports and inquiries had raised concerns with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan implementation, but the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had turned a blind eye.

“I am aware there have been discussions about civil disobedience and I really hope it doesn’t get to that point, however I think it shows how frustrated people have become with the whole water process,” he said.

“The Federal Government seems prepared to allow our regions to be collateral damage for a bad plan that it will not fix because of the political difficulties, especially in South Australia where there are no shortages because they get ‘first dibs’ at the water which is available.

“We were promised a plan that would deliver balance and flexibility, but that is not what is happening.

“I am extremely concerned at the actions which might be taken by some people if Mr Keelty’s report fails to offer positive outcomes.”