Australia

'Something needs to be done:' Farmers rally to revise Murray Darling Basin plan

Brett Wright and his wife Joe says with the drought the current plan is having a blow to the future of their farm. Source: Supplied/Melissa Portingale

Australian farmers have come in their thousands to country New South Wales to rally for a revision of the Murray Darling Basin Management Plan.

Australian farmers are demanding for a revision of the Murray Darling Basin Management Plan in a bid to save irrigation-dependent communities.

Thousands armed with picket signs and banners stood by the banks of the Murray Darling in the country New South Wales town of Tocumwal crying out that ‘enough is enough’.

Brett Wright, a cropping farmer who lives just 18km south of town, said the drought has been difficult for him and his family and access to water is important for the survival of his farm.

“It’s getting very dry here at the moment and irrigation water would be a godsend to help make a living for our family,” he said.

“We’re desperate for water or rain and when you’re standing on the bank and can see nearly 14 megalitres going past you straight into the sea it’s a crying shame.”

Thousands of farmers have come together in country NSW to rally the Murray Darling Basin Management Plan.
Thousands of farmers have come together in country NSW to rally the Murray Darling Basin Management Plan.
Supplied/Melissa Portingale

The Murray-Darling Basin drains one-seventh of the Australian continent and represents one-third of its agricultural production.

It is home to more than 2 million people and 16 Ramsar-listed wetlands and is more than 2,500km long, on one of the driest continents in the world.

The water management agreement, which was signed-off in 2012, was aimed to bring the Basin to a healthier and sustainable level.

But since then communities in the southern Basin have struggled to battle drought, and water buybacks.

The Murray-Darling Basin drains one-seventh of the Australian continent, and represents one-third of its agricultural production.
The Murray-Darling Basin drains one-seventh of the Australian continent, and represents one-third of its agricultural production.
Wikipedia

Mr Wright said the financial burden of paying for water is going to have an impact on the future of his farm.

“I reckon in a fortnight, if we haven’t had rain or found water from somewhere, we’ll be cutting 90 per cent of our crops for hay,” he said.

“Also there’s going to be so much hay around, so we probably won’t get a good price for that either.”

He said it’s not just farmers struggling.

“It also comes back to the local community because farmers and kids will drift into the inner city to find work or whatever.”

Victorian farmer Melissa Portingale, who tried to trade a rare collectable Woolworths Ooshie for irrigation water, said the plan is ‘absolute chaos’ and she’d like to see open communication between communities and the government.

“We really want the government to listen to what we’ve got to say, nobody seems to be paying a lot of attention to the pleas of the farmers,” she explained.

“We’re getting environmental flow being flushed down the river which is more damaging to the river than now and it’s also taking water away from people who need it the most.

Victorian farmer Melissa Portingale, who tried to trade a rare collectible Woolworths Ooshie for irrigation water, said the plan is ‘absolute chaos’.
Victorian farmer Melissa Portingale, who tried to trade a rare collectible Woolworths Ooshie for irrigation water, said the plan is ‘absolute chaos’.
Supplied/Melissa Portingale

“You’ve got some people with no water and then you’ve got people here that have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for the water, there’s no one regulating what’s going on.”

With drought conditions worsening along the east coast, Mrs Portingale said it’s also taking a mental toll on farmers who feel like they’re unable to cope in the current climate.

“Farmers are taking their lives at an incredible rate at the moment cause there’s no other option,” she said.

“The government isn’t listening to the fact that these people are suffering, their farms are dying,  their animals are dying… something needs to be done.”

The Department of Agriculture and Murray Darling Basin Authority have been contacted for comment.

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