Last week I travelled through the Murray Basin states to see the impact the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was having on farming businesses and regional communities.
The tour group consisted of the state farming organisations, NFF and other peak bodies from states within the Murray-Darling catchment.
There is no doubt the Plan has been the cause of anxiety for irrigators.
There are common themes that were consistently relayed to us from those we met - drought is challenging the understanding of the Plan, need for greater transparency and long-term water availability.
The VFF has advocated for increased transparency within the water market.
A framework similar to a stock exchange will unveil those who hoard valuable water and then sell at perilously high costs to return water to the consumptive pool.
It is clear we need a greater understanding of the volume of water in the system at any given time, allowing better decision-making with respect to river management, but also providing greater certainty for irrigators when making critical business decisions.
After inspecting the Barmah Choke and other areas of the system, the degradation of river banks, vegetation and riverside infrastructure is prevalent.
Improved management techniques would allow efficient flows of water without the associated negative impacts.
The communities along the Murray-Darling river systems are committed to improving the system for their communities, farmers downstream and are mindful of environmental impacts.
The communities we met with believe there are solutions to these problems, but there is a need for strong leadership.
Any changes applied need to be equitable and deliver long-term benefits to all irrigators.
- David Jochinke is the VFF president