The National Farmers’ Federation met last week met with farmers and community members across the Murray Darling Basin catchment, from southern Queensland to the mouth of the Murray in South Australia.
President Fiona Simson, Chief Executive Officer Tony Mahar and representatives of NFF’s member organisations held in meetings in Goondiwindi, St George, Dirranbandi, Walgett, Menindee, Swan Hill, Deniliquin, Shepparton, Goolwa and Wellington in the lower lakes.
The visit was part of NFF’s ongoing consultation with those who live and do business in the Basin to determine how the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan is impacting livelihoods, families, communities and the environment. The visit followed consultations in the southern Basin late last year.
“The NFF seeks to represent all of Australian agriculture, farmers across the Basin and by connection their communities,” Ms Simson said.
“The NFF regularly visits the Basin to get a better understanding of the challenges from those on the ground.”
Ms Simson said the lived and specific experiences of the impact on Basin Plan on communities differed from one region to another.
“However, there is one constant – people up and down the Basin are hurting.
“The Plan’s implementation has caused pain for farmers and it is clear the implementation process could have been, and should have been, done better.”
Ms Simson said that the Plan was not the only impacting factor and that the ongoing drought and a precarious water market had also made for challenging times.
The NFF’s consultations confirmed the following as the priority issues to be addressed:
- Better transparency and accountability across the basin
- Consultation processes and genuine engagement with local communities
- Accurate and factual information
- Third-party impacts of water trade in the southern basin
- Developing solutions to complex water policy problems that are equitable across the basin
“The NFF’s Water Committee, consisting of representatives of NFF members, across states and commodities, develops the NFF’s position on matters pertaining to the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
“The Committee meets regularly to ensure, the NFF’s position on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, continues to reflect the consensus view of our members.
Ms Simson said the NFF’s policy continued to be to stay the course with the Plan and to advocate for measures for it to enhance its delivery for farmers, communities and the environment.
Following the consultations, the NFF has identified the following priority actions for Basin Governments:
- The implementation of the recommendations of the Productivity Commission’s 5 year-review.
- Proper, meaningful and transparent consultation with Basin stakeholders.
- Committing resources to consider and then implement recommendations from the ACCC Water Markets review and Basin social and economic review.
- Developing a clear and consistent dataset across the Basin to provide a ‘single source of truth’ about how much water there is in the system and where it is going.
Ms Simson said the NFF would also establish an annual Murray Darling Basin Roundtable.
“The event will be an opportunity for all Basin stakeholders to discuss their issues and experiences, face-to-face under the one roof.
“It is our hope that this will lead to a better shared understanding of the challenges faced by ALL Australians whose livelihoods and lifestyles depend on a sustainable, productive Basin.
“Basin Ministers and senior bureaucrats will be invited to attend.”
Ms Simson thanked all those who took the time to meet with NFF and share their experiences and ideas.
“There is no silver bullet to these issues. It was abundantly clear from all of our interactions that people wanted a healthy river and growing vibrant communities”.
The NFF will continue to consult and to advocate for the best Plan possible that meets the needs of farmers, communities and the environment.”