For a long time the problems of the Murray River being driven by poor water policy have flown under the radar.
This is partly because the water sharing arrangements are dependant on three states throwing added complexities to the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Advocating for the Murray Valley has proved challenging for many organisations, as there are many valley specific issues for those in this delicate part of the Southern Connected System.
At long last many of the inadequacies of the basin plan are coming to light, which the Speak Up campaign have been highlighting for four years.
One of the driving factors in the establishment of Speak Up was because the grassroots had lost faith in the ability for peak organisations to advocate for family farmers and subsequently the communities they support in southern NSW and northern Victoria.
However, the recent motions passed at NSW Farmers Association Conference and annual general meeting held in Sydney this week have renewed our faith that a new direction in advocacy for water will prevent further damage to Southern Basin communities.
We commend NSWFA for establishing a specific water task force, which will ensure a focus remains on water issues, and importantly that the executive members will be properly briefed before they hold discussions with politicians.
We also support the push by NSWFA for a Royal Commission into the failings of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which would uncover its many failings and the damage it has caused to agricultural production.
Two critical steps need to take place to cement our confidence in the ability of NSWFA to adequately advocate for the region. Firstly, their water task force must contain grower/grassroots members who have a working knowledge of the systems most severely impacted by the basin plan.
Secondly, the water task force and NSWFA branches, particularly those in the Southern Basin must have input into the terms of reference of any Royal Commission.
No longer can the flaws of the basin plan and dominance of corporates and deep pockets play a role in influencing advocacy for family farmers.
Speak Up campaign chair