New group to represent southern basin communities

By Country News

The Southern Connected Irrigators and Communities group has been formed to represent southern Murray-Darling Basin communities who rely on irrigated agricultural production.

The group is comprised of 15 organisations across NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

The Southern Connected Irrigators and Communities originally came together to draft a submission for Murray–Darling Basin Water Resources Inspector-General Mick Keelty’s review into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Once Mr Keelty’s report had been released, the varying bodies were disappointed with the outcome and decided to stay united.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks said the united front would tackle government policies on the Murray-Darling Basin head-on.

“We’ve had a lot of opposition from government, there’s been over a hundred different reports into the plan, but absolutely nothing has been done,” he said.

The convergence of the groups from separate valleys now represent about 15 000 farmers and farming unions and Mr Brooks said he hoped it would showcase a bigger issue.

“We’re all sick of the argument with the National Party, but we’d now like to think we have the support of the Labor Party with the union support, and hopefully that will push the Liberal party off the fence,” he said.

Northern Victorian Irrigation Communities chair Dudley Bryant said without a change in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, irrigation communities faced inevitable collapse.

‘‘It means when we do go and speak to government, we are representing all of the southern basin — not just Cobram,’’ Mr Bryant said.

‘‘A lot of these communities have been built on irrigated agriculture and they’re not going to survive.

‘‘We just want to see irrigated agriculture get the respect it deserves.’’

While funding and leadership of the new organisation is yet to be decided, Mr Bryant encouraged people to join their local irrigation group if they wanted to see a change in policy.

‘‘The more people we can say we’re representing, the more politicians will listen,” he said.