More pleas for action

By Sophie Baldwin

A call to end the Murray-Darling Basin Plan along with a royal commission was supported by a vocal group of people in Tongala last week.

About 100 people attended the meeting hosted by Southern Basin Communities and spearheaded by former dairy farmer Wade Northausen.

Mr Northausen said he was pleased with the turn-out and the feedback he had received was positive.

‘‘I feel we are on the right track and we are gaining strength by the day. We will host similar meetings in Renmark and Griffith and then there are plans to take the call to Melbourne. We plan to deliver a petition to Canberra for a royal commission before the election,’’ Mr Northausen said.

He said it was essential to put pressure on politicians in Canberra to bring about much-needed change.

‘‘The reality is if it stays dry, we will all be wiped out in a year’s time. I have had lots of calls after the meeting and many of these people are so distressed they are in tears. We need to get this pressure off the farming community by fixing this mess,’’ he said.

Mr Northausen believes the plan is a deliberate ploy to break small family farms and it has nothing to do with positive environmental outcomes.

‘‘We set up this group out of sheer frustration. Bodies like the Victorian Farmers Federation and United Dairyfarmers of Victoria have refused to represent us and they have done nothing.’’

Former Campaspe councillor Greg Toll said every person in the room was facing challenging times.

‘‘There have been very few blokes who have put up their hand to fight — and this opportunity might not happen again. It is disturbing how many good farming families are being forced out, and I support you Wade,’’ Mr Toll said.

Dairy farmer John Brian became emotional as he told the meeting his business needed water in two weeks’ time and the issue of carry-over water must be addressed immediately.

Dairy farmer Alana Brennan said it was good to see someone trying to make an actual difference.

‘‘There is a groundswell and people are calling for something to be done because they are tired of watching politicians and farming organisation continue to sit on their hands,’’ Mrs Brennan said.

‘‘This mismanagement should never have been allowed to happen and those people need to be held accountable for the decisions they have made — this is so much worse then the millennium drought and there is clearly a lot of distress.’’

Alan Mathers, while supportive of the distress in the room, said he felt the meeting lacked information and substance.

‘‘There was no clear idea or plan on how they are going to achieve a royal commission, and while I sympathise with the frustration and angst, I have to say I was disappointed,’’ Mr Mathers said.