Farm­ers plead for water

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

A small al­lo­ca­tion for lo­cal farm­ers is des­per­ately needed, when the lat­est gen­eral se­cu­rity an­nounce­ment for NSW Mur­ray is made this Fri­day.

Speak Up Cam­paign deputy chair Lach­lan Mar­shall yes­ter­day pleaded with water au­thor­i­ties to help re­gional food pro­duc­ers and com­mu­ni­ties, even if the al­lo­ca­tion is only small.

‘‘We have to get some­thing, re­gard­less of how small. Those with rice crops are be­ing forced to buy water at more than $500 a me­gal­itre or let the crops die,’’ he said.

‘‘In my fam­ily’s sit­u­a­tion we have a dairy farm and it’s cost­ing a small for­tune to buy water so we can grow for­age crops for the cows. ‘‘We don’t have a choice.’’ On the Mar­shalls’ Blighty dairy farm they are milk­ing 900 cows three times a day and pro­duce about 12 mil­lion litres of milk a year.

‘‘I like to think that we’re not only run­ning a busi­ness, but also mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to our na­tion by help­ing to put milk on su­per­mar­ket shelves.

‘‘Plus, we em­ploy about 20 peo­ple which is good for our lo­cal econ­omy.

‘‘My fam­ily knows that drought is a part of farm­ing — we’ve been in the in­dus­try a long time and un­der­stand it’s part and par­cel of what we do.

‘‘But what has hap­pened this sea­son is hard to swal­low. At a time when our water al­lo­ca­tion re­mains on zero, we’ve watched un­nat­u­ral flood­ing of forests be­cause of water mis­man­age­ment. Quite sim­ply, the au­thor­i­ties bun­gled the amount they could push down the Mur­ray River to South Aus­tralia.’’

Mr Mar­shall is also frus­trated that water which was sent to South Aus­tralia was not used for en­vi­ron­men­tal pur­poses, de­spite farm­ers be­ing given as­sur­ances that water had to be re­cov­ered for the en­vi­ron­ment.

‘‘Much of the water that did make it to the end of the sys­tem — we lost bil­lions of litres along the way — wasn’t used to ben­e­fit the en­vi­ron­ment. It kept the Lower Lakes full for boat­ing and other re­cre­ation, filled up the chan­nels of lux­ury hous­ing de­vel­op­ments, and huge quan­ti­ties were poured out to sea.

‘‘That hurts. Es­pe­cially as my fam­ily is be­ing forced to pay more than $400,000 a month for water so we can feed the cows. We have to grin and bear it, but quite ob­vi­ously it’s not sus­tain­able.

‘‘I’m not sure what the fu­ture holds for our farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties. I orig­i­nally had faith that our politi­cians would see the lu­nacy and fix it. Now I’m not too sure.

‘‘But for the sake of food pro­duc­ers across the re­gion I would strongly en­cour­age them to pro­vide us with a water al­lo­ca­tion on Fri­day.’’

The Speak Up Cam­paign is pro­duc­ing a video to high­light the im­pacts of zero water al­lo­ca­tion, which can be viewed to­day on the Speak Up Face­book page.

Shel­ley Scoullar.

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