"Can the Plan" protesters claim a win

Littleproud commits to a review of the Murray Darling Basin Agreement


Protesting irrigators say they made the politicians sit up and listen.

Irrigators protesting against the Murray Darling Basin Plan say they have been ignored by the government for months if not years, so this week they took their protest to the government's front door, literally.


Around 3000 protesters marched to Parliament House on Monday, demanding they listen and chanted for Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud to front them.

And although they haven't come away with a canned plan, for the first time they were able to get a commitment from Mr Littleproud, albeit one that relies on agreement from the basin states.

At a meeting with a delegation of protesters, Mr Littleproud said he would seek agreement from the Ministerial Council on December 17, to provide appropriate powers to the interim Inspector General Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources, Mick Keelty, to immediately investigate the impact of the changing distribution of inflows to the southern basin, on state shares under the Murray Darling Basin Agreement.

The proposed investigation would report back to Mr Littleproud by March 2020.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman and key spokesperson for the protesters Chris Brooks was part of the delegation to meet with Mr Littleproud.

"For the first time since I've been involved in this water debate it's been really positive," Mr Brooks said.

Read more: Concerns raised over state water sharing review

Therese and Evan Ryan, Yarrawonga, said they attended the rally as it had got to the point where if they didn't stand up for what they believed in, nothing would change.

The family produced wheat, canola and oaten hay, but had to cut it before harvest.

"We've had a gutful,"Mr Ryan said.

"The Murray Darling Basin Plan is toxic, it's killing the environment of the river, killing farming, killing communities and killing farmers."

He said the committment to review of the plan was a morale booster for irrigators, particularly those in NSW.

Gabrielle Hartley, Swan Hill, said she was a small farmer, but couldn't afford water at $900 a megalitre.

"We are just trying to get the water back on the land, where it should stay," Ms Hartley said.

She said they attended the rally because of the damage being caused by the MDBP.

"The NSW farmers have zero allocation, the rivers are full, yet they have flooded our forests, three or four times this year," she said.

"They have flooded the Barmah Forest to the point they are killing the red gums."

This was while South Australia had a full allocation.

"The politicians and big corporates have bought a hell of a lot of water, and no-one knows, who owns it," she said.

"No-one can afford water, we are all going broke.

"It's just not sustainable, and it's just not right."


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