Questions raised over NFF invitation-only fact-finding tour

Questions raised over NFF invitation-only fact-finding tour

Water
INVITATION ONLY: Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks said he had been invited to put his organisation's views to the National Farmers Federation's fact-finding tour.

INVITATION ONLY: Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks said he had been invited to put his organisation's views to the National Farmers Federation's fact-finding tour.

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The NFF is carrying out a fact-finding tour on the Murray-Darling Basin.

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A Murrabit Victorian Farmers Federation Water Council member has questioned the value of a Murray-Darling Basin fact finding tour by Australia's peak agricultural lobby group.

The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) will hold meetings in Swan Hill, Deniliquin, NSW, and Shepparton, on an invitation-only basis.

NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said the best insights into the challenges faced by Basin farmers and communities could be gleaned from farmers in their own communities.

"And that's what we are doing this week," Mr Mahar said.

"The NFF president [Fiona Simson] and I will be joined by the NFF's Basin state farming organisations in meetings with local farmers and community leaders from Goondiwindi to Goolwa in South Australia.

"There is no doubt farmers up and down the Basin are hurting and the issues vary from community to community."

But VFF Water Council north-west Victoria member, Murrabit dairy farmer Andrew Leahy, said he'd like to see the tour members come to his area.

Irrigators in the Loddon Valley also said the group should visit that area.

NFF media and communications manager Laureta Wallace agreed with Stock & Land, when asked if the meetings were invitation-only, if the delegation was speaking with ricegrowers in Swan Hill, and members would also be going to Shepparton and Deniliquin.

"That is correct," Ms Wallace said.

Mr Leahy said he hadn't been invited to any of the meetings.

"My concern is that they are coming to Swan Hill to meet with ricegrowers," Mr Leahy said.

"Swan Hill is in Victoria and there is no rice grown there, isn't Deniliquin a rice-growing area?

"What about the other horticultural, dairy farming and irrigated croppers on the Victorian side, what about meeting with them?"

He said it was a long way from Shepparton to Swan Hill.

"There are some pretty diverse businesses in that area," he said

"I don't know if it's a fact-finding mission, they aren't finding out too many facts, they are just trying to appease people."

Riverina irrigators

Another outspoken critic of the process, Southern Riverina Irrigators (SRI) chair Chris Brooks, said the group would be meeting with the NFF.

He said he believed the NFF delegation had invited SRI representatives to meet with it, after the Convoy to Canberra last year.

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"We marched on NFF House in Canberra to tell them specifically they don't speak on our behalf and to stay out of our space," he said.

"They don't know what they are talking about, in regards to the Southern Basin."

Mr Brooks accused the NFF of "a lack of knowledge" and ignorance about water rules.

He said the Southern Basin was supplying South Australia's needs.

"There is nothing coming down the Darling River," he said.

"Fiona Simson can huff and puff and flap her arms around, but we will never get any common ground, they are taking our allocation and we want them to stop.

"They are only worried about the Northern Basin, if they could get us in the tent, they would only gag us, so we'll stick with the Keelty process."

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He said NSW and Victorian irrigators would be "well advised" to take matters into their own hands, bypassing groups such as the NFF and VFF.

'"These advocacy groups have failed at every turn, while we are in the problem we are in," he said.

Mr Maher said the drought was one strong constant.

"The NFF and our members are committed to seeing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan be the best it can be," he said.

He repeated calls for the Productivity Commission's five-year review recommendations to be implemented, as well as adequate resourcing for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and Basin governments.

He said the NFF represented farmers across the Basin, the many agricultural industries that rely on it and, by connection, the communities and the environment within.

Shepparton orchardist Peter Hall said the group would be coming onto his property and that of Tallygaroopna dairy farmer Natalie Akers.

"They are just doing a fact-finding mission, to look at the effects of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan," Mr Hall said.

"The intent is to see how devastating the MDBP has been for our region."

And VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said a previous meeting had been held in Mildura, before Christmas.

"It's the second round of what they started last year," Mr Anderson said.

He said he expected Water Council members to attend some of the meetings, which would also include VFF president David Jochinke.

"The NFF has been getting around, they are the national body and they need to see what's happening on the ground," he said.

"This will give them a view of that.

"But it's not just about water, this is about all things agricultural."

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