Water dominates discussions at Australian Dairy Plan workshops

By Rodney Woods

Water, water, water.

That was the main talking point at Australian Dairy Plan workshops across northern Victoria and southern Riverina last week.

At Tatura, 82 per cent of the 50 people in attendance said a stronger water policy was needed, while 90 per cent of the 20 people at Finley’s workshop thought water issues needed to be addressed for a viable dairy industry.

The majority (68 per cent) of those at the Cohuna workshop also said water was the biggest issue for the region.

These figures were no surprise considering farmers north of the NSW-Victoria border have been on zero water allocation and high water prices have been an issue for all farmers across the region.

Southern Basin Communities president Wade Northausen from Tongala agreed with the dairy farmers in the room at Tatura, pointing out the importance of water to the region.

‘‘There seems to be a scattered viewpoint but the only place we need to have change is in legislation because if we don’t get legislation changed to fix the overall problems then none of the rest of this is going to matter,’’ Mr Northausen said.

Also among the Tatura crowd was Chris Howard, from Rural Financial Counselling Services, who said he attended the workshop to hear the views of dairy farmers.

‘‘The reason for me being here is to hear some of the ideas that have come from the industry itself,’’ Mr Howard said.

‘‘I think dairy farmers are going to have some of the best solutions.’’

While water was the major talking point, other issues addressed included streamlining advocacy groups, the need for the public to be better educated about the dairy industry and for better promotion within the industry.