Thousands head for Canberra to call for change

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

The rallying farmers and community members gathered at Old Parliament House, then marched to the new Parliament House to listen to a range of speakers, including politicians who support Basin Plan reform.

All politicians from every party have been invited to stand with rally participants.

“We want our Members of Parliament to show their hand. Are they with us or against us? We are hoping David Littleproud, Sussan Ley and other Coalition members will join us in the call for change.

They need to stand up for their traditional rural constituents,” Mrs Scoullar said.

She added it was essential for the future of Basin communities that the unintended consequences of the Basin Plan are recognised.

“Socially the plan is destroying regional communities, leaving high unemployment, towns without schools, doctors, sporting teams and causing significant mental health issues when people are left with no hope,” Mrs Scoullar said.

“Economically it is destroying what were once viable, profitable farms and reliant agricultural enterprises, and jeopardising our national food security with the systematic destruction of our southern food bowl, particularly our dairy and fodder crop industries.

“Environmentally, the damage caused to the beds and banks of our major rivers, particularly the Murray and Goulburn River systems is obscene and should not be tolerated under the guise of environmental flows,” Mrs Scoullar said.

She added mismanagement and misuse of water, our most precious resource, had seen:

● Collapse of banks

● Loss of mature red gums both by bank collapse and excessive flooding

● Sediment build up 

● Increased hypoxic blackwater events

● Carp population explosion

● Unprecedented fish kills

● Proliferation of invasive lippia weed

● Disconnect of river systems

● Loss of native habitat for platypus, native fish, crayfish and birds.

“There is water available but Federal Government policies have denied farmers access to their most important resource, which is needed to grow food for the nation.

“During our Convoy to Canberra we will confront the politicians head on and ask Prime Minister Morrison to explain why they are so intent on continuing with a plan that is simply not working as initially intended, and is destroying regional communities, farmers, our productive agricultural sector and our nation’s food security,” Mrs Scoullar said.

The Convoy to Canberra wants the following:

1. Fix the Basin Plan or Can it

2. 1000 gigalitres lost in transmission down the Murray should be classed as environmental flows, not as losses, and debited against the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) to immediately allow the equivalent amount in storages to be reallocated to irrigation. As it would be a redirection of 1000 gigalitres of existing flows to farmers, no extra flows would be required down the Murray, so that there would be no additional load on the Barmah-Millewa choke.

3. Commence construction of Lock Zero between Wellington and Tailem Bend, which could return over 2000 GL to food and fibre production and guarantee Adelaide’s water supply.

4. Review and revise the flawed assumptions upon which the Basin Plan was modelled eg. the required frequency of flood events for wetlands and forests; ability to keep the Murray Mouth open 95 per cent of the time without dredging.

5. Overhaul water market and water trade policies. Introduce a national fully transparent ownership and trading register incorporating a one trade rule - non-landowners can only sell once per season to a landowner.

6. Implement complementary measures such as carp eradication, fish ladders, cold water pollution blankets.

7. Install standardised metering, measurement and telemetry gauging basin wide to enable a fully operational system where flows can be coincided.

8. Redivert the South East Drains back into the Southern Coorong.

9. Clarify and re-write the Water Act 2007.

10. Review the Murray Darling Agreement.