Calls for a pause to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan may be growing around the region, but the Federal Government won’t be joining the chorus.
That was the clear message delivered by Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum during a visit to the Goulburn Valley in March.
Speaking to a drought summit at Valley Pack in Mooroopna, Mr Drum said he “couldn’t agree more” with the sentiment of the Pause the Plan movement.
Yet he said the answer was not pausing the plan, but moving forward a review of the southern basin, scheduled to occur in 18 months’ time.
“If we pause the plan we have no control over how we restart it.”
The comment failed to resonate with the crowd, with a chorus of “it couldn’t be worse” rising from the crowd.
“Well, 4000 Gl for the environment is worse than 2145 Gl,” Mr Drum said.
The support for a review did little to placate the frustrated crowd, with many demanding swift action.
“Eighteen days is just about too much,” Katunga dairy farmer Bridget Goulding told Mr Drum.
Katamatite dairy farmer Simone Ross said starting a review today would be too late, while Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks said a review could soon be pointless.
“No-one is going to be here in 18 months’ time,” he yelled from the crowd.
Some, including Tongala’s Wade Northausen, called for the Federal Government to go even further and initiate a royal commission to explore the creation of the basin plan.
Although conceeding the basin plan was far from perfect, Mr Littleproud would not commit to pausing it.
“No,” he said when asked whether he would consider a legislative stop.
“I don’t want to stand here and lie to you, I’m going to tell it like it is … be careful what you wish for.
“I’ve got to get a solution that will at least deliver something.”
Cobram East dairy farmer Paul Mundy believes the current Murray-Darling Basin Plan is “unpalatable, unworkable and flawed”.
Speaking after the drought summit meeting last week he said he didn’t believe the plan was formed on proper science.
“However if this is blown up or rescinded, then our concern is: what do we end up with next time?
“And that, although we are in dire peril now, the outcome could be far, far worse for those of us that are left — and regrettably there will be a lot of us fall by the wayside.
“The challenge the minister has, is how does he implement those suggestions with the states involved?
“It’s a hell of a mess that has compounded over the years.”