When I read comment on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan from Australian Dairy Farmers president Terry Richardson my initial reaction was extreme anger, followed by disappointment.
It is difficult to comprehend how the leader of a national organisation could have such a poor understanding of the impact the failing basin plan is having on the industry they are representing.
I have never seen an executive member of the ADF in the NSW Murray region, which perhaps explains why the comments are out of touch with what is actually happening.
While Mr Richardson says the dairy industry has largely supported the basin plan, that view is certainly not mirrored by the majority in this region; or, should I say, what’s left of the dairy industry in this region.
It has been decimated by the reduction in available and affordable water, which we have seen since the basin plan’s implementation.
I would invite Mr Richardson and his executive to visit this region and I will personally show and explain what is really happening.
This would be preferable to blindly following the National Farmers’ Federation directive (ie. National Party directive) which appears to be happening.
Mr Richardson talks about the need for decisions to be “rooted in scientific and economic evidence”.
It appears he hasn’t read the CSIRO peer-reviewed scientific reports which clearly show the false scientific assumptions around the historical condition of the Lower Lakes, which is the basis of the basin plan.
As for “economic evidence”, I’d suggest he also has not read the reports telling us about the economic devastation from the plan in many of our rural communities, with high unemployment and population decline.
As far as comments around the water market “working effectively”, neither myself nor other dairy farmers have seen that to be the case as we pay the exorbitant water prices that the basin plan has delivered to us, making our businesses unsustainable.
Our family dairy operation is considered very modern, utilising latest technology. However, for the sake of our industry’s future it is disconcerting to see such an overall lack of understanding around what is happening on our farms.
This is a prime example of opinion and policy being dictated by insufficient knowledge of the impacts and unintended consequences of government decisions.
The widespread anger and frustration at the basin plan throughout southern NSW and northern Victoria is genuine, not contrived, and our views are influenced by living the plan, not being told by an unaffected third party of its impacts.
For the benefit of Mr Richardson and his ADF colleagues, please take note — the plan is failing your industry, it is not protecting the environment, the science on which it was based is flawed and our communities are suffering.
There is a desperate need to review the plan and develop a new plan that truly “works to relieve pressure on irrigators while ensuring a healthy river system”.
Ill-informed commentary by leaders who are distanced from reality is doing our nation’s farmers immense damage, at a time when we need them to lead positive change that benefits the agricultural industries they represent.
I strongly recommend that Mr Richardson and the ADF retract their comments and apologise for the pain they have caused to those in southern NSW and northern Victoria.
- Lachlan Marshall