Opinion

Letter to the editor: New water lobby group needed

By Geoff Adams

By Keith den Houting, Kerang

I have watched, attended meetings and been in discussion ever since the original white paper and the Living Murray 30 years ago came out on the irrigation water debate.

Very little has been gained by irrigators ever since, only entitlement losses have occurred!

It seems to me therefore that the approach we use is all wrong.

When we look through all the well-known great people who have worked tirelessly and written hundreds of letters on this topic, I am dismayed at the time and toll it is taking on their lives.

That includes both people for and against what water policy stands for. The only constant over all these years is the determination of these people and I applaud all of you.

The suggestion at the Shepparton forum with Mick Keelty, to form ‘another committee’ representing Shepparton region irrigators is to me, anyway, just all wrong.

The government and opposition will be rubbing their hands with glee and will simply view this as another small group to dismiss. When we look at all the other small groups battling for the same outcome.

Maybe it is time to form one strong, united group. The old saying of ‘united we stand, divided we fall’ is so very relevant in this issue.

While I appreciate all regions and states have different priorities, that weather conditions have an effect on water availability and that differing agricultural pursuits have differing water requirements, the underlying reasoning of all irrigators — whether in Victoria, NSW or Queensland and South Australia — is for a fairer more sustainable outcome.

That is what every irrigator really wants and needs.

Yes, there are many varied opinions and requirements. However if we wish to approach the governing bodies we need to display strength in numbers and ideals.

I believe all irrigators need to unite and create the one lobby group from all over the Murray-Darling Basin and employ professional full-time lobby people to make constant and united approaches regarding water to all forms of government.

That way interstate issues can be determined before approaching governments. That way the lobbyist can then approach governments with a large number of united irrigators backing them and possibly use some political clout. These won’t be so easily dismissed!

I understand some people will say this is already happening with various state farmer organisations and their representatives. However, they ultimately lobby for their state farmers, on various farmer issues including water.

I apologise to people like Richard Anderson, Neil Eagle, Barry Croke, Ken Patterson, Jan Beer, Shelley Scoullar, John Lolicato, Chris Brooks, Doug Fehring and John Pettigrew and many more unnamed people who work constantly and tirelessly for better outcomes on this water debate.

Your work is valued but to me it appears divided, as you all seem to be representing different groups and ideals.

Finally to the chair of Goulburn-Murray Water, Charmaine Quick, and your statement of “it is expected everyone pays for the upkeep of the system”.

Our Kerang lakes are G-MW storages and not all users pay or contribute to this. Their use is constant and many non-financial contributors are part of that.