No more white noise

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Ag Life -

What do you think when you hear the phrase, ‘The Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan’.

I’ve been re­port­ing on it since its in­cep­tion by the Howard Gov­ern­ment and con­fess to often hear­ing a lot of white noise when it’s men­tioned.

So many Syd­ney Har­bours or olympic swim­ming pools of wa­ter to be pre­served for the en­vi­ron­ment.

It’s a dif­fi­cult con­cept to get your head around.

How is that wa­ter saved? When does it go to the en­vi­ron­ment? How is the wa­ter mea­sured? You see what I mean: white noise of wa­ter num­bers that very few com­pletely un­der­stand.

It’s re­mark­able how the fog sud­denly lifts when you’re face-to-face with an ir­ri­ga­tor fac­ing ruin.

Lachlan Mar­shall was in his mid-twen­ties and farm­ing in south east Queens­land when he was en­ticed to move the fourth gen­er­a­tion dairy farm­ing op­er­a­tion to the south­ern Rive­rina with the prom­ise of plenty of wa­ter.

“We moved here for wa­ter, for the abil­ity to grow our own home grown for­age,” he said.

“When we moved here there was an 87 per­cent re­li­a­bil­ity of re­ceiv­ing high al­lo­ca­tion lev­els.”

A decade on and the 1800 dairy cow op­er­a­tion with milk­ing three times a day and em­ploy­ing 17 peo­ple should be a fine

ex­am­ple of what an in­no­va­tive ap­proach can do.

The Mar­shalls use the lat­est in dairy ge­net­ics and his work­ers love their jobs and are as com­mit­ted to the busi­ness as the own­ers.

But wa­ter re­li­a­bil­ity is now just 50 per­cent and the farm has been dealt one disaster af­ter an­other, with dev­as­tat­ing floods in 2016 that ir­ri­ga­tors blame on en­vi­ron­men­tal flows be­ing pushed through the sys­tem to South Aus­tralia, and now two years in suc­ces­sion of zero wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion.

Lachlan openly talks about the shame he feels at con­tem­plat­ing sell­ing up.

“We’re look­ing down the bar­rel of hav­ing to make some very tough de­ci­sions at the open­ing of the ir­ri­ga­tion sea­son if we have no al­lo­ca­tion,” he said.

“I can’t con­tinue to lose money the way we are and we’re go­ing to have to shut our dairy down.”

Asked what he will do for a liv­ing, Lachlan can only say, ‘the un­think­able’.

“Four gen­er­a­tions of my fam­ily have bred th­ese cows up… that’s a bit of a rabbit hole that none of us want to look down right now.”

As for the debt ac­crued in build­ing up such a big op­er­a­tion he said ‘that’s a mill­stone that will prob­a­bly hang around my neck for the rest of my life.’

He’s close to tears as he talks of his trip to Can­berra to meet the Prime Min­ster, Scott Morrison, to ar­gue for some­thing to be done.

On the way, he read a let­ter his 11-yearold daugh­ter had given him to pass on to the PM.

“I was naive think­ing my kids didn’t un­der­stand the sit­u­a­tion and the pres­sures,” he said.

“She called for lead­er­ship. She begged the Prime Min­is­ter for help to save her home.”

As they say, out of the mouth of babes.

– Lachlan Mar­shall

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