Disappointment over minister's failed visit

Minister's failure to visit described as "pretty ordinary"

Water
VISIT DISAPPOINTMENT: Leitchville dairy farmer Doug Fehring has described Water Minister Keith Pitt's failure to visit the Cohuna area as "pretty ordinary."

VISIT DISAPPOINTMENT: Leitchville dairy farmer Doug Fehring has described Water Minister Keith Pitt's failure to visit the Cohuna area as "pretty ordinary."

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Irrigators, farmers, want ministers to see Basin Plan impact at first hand.

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A northern Victorian farming and environmental group has turned down an offer for a Zoom conference meeting with Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt, saying he needs to visit the area in person.

Members of the Central Murray Environmental Floodplains Group said Mr Pitt had given them his word that he'd visit the Cohuna region, but then offered them a Zoom meeting, which they rejected.

Former Kerang grain farmer Geoff Kendall said the minister needed to visit the area, in person, to see the environmental damage being done to the Gunbower Forest.

"It's been decimated by the Murray Darling Basin Plan, the forest has been flooded, it looks like it's been nuked - it's black," Mr Kendall said.

"On one side of the road, there is nothing left, vegetation wise, the trees look like they are dead, but the other side hasn't been watered and the trees, and vegetation, look really healthy."

He said the group wanted to talk to Mr Pitt about several issues, including the economy, which had been "absolutely smashed" by the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

"We have had farmers who have left the area.

"With that, of course, businesses that support the farms have had to basically shut down as well."

Mr Kendall said the group members wanted Mr Pitt, and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, to see conditions on the ground, at first hand.

"Our feeling is that there is only one way for them to get a better understanding, personally, on what is happening, and that is to get on the ground and see for themselves."

Authorities and the government needed to take a "bottom up", rather than a "top-down" approach, he said.

Leitchville dairy farmer Doug Fehring said Mr Pitt's decision not to visit was "pretty ordinary.

"He needs to see, first hand what's going on here, in the local area - you can't convey the gravity of htat, without being on site," Mr Fehring said.

"He's ducking and weaving, under the guise of coronavirus - he did commit to coming down in April or May, but that's just delaying tactics."

Mr Fehring said every time the group tried to do something productive, the authorities and government put roadblocks in place.

And Upper Goulburn beef producer Jan Beer said she believed Mr Pitt was "a miserable failure" as a Water Minister.

"He is a Clayton's Minister- there in name only," Ms Beer said.

"He's afraid to meet with irate farmers and communities, who are extremely concerned about the Basin Plan's failure to confront the reality of climate change, to review and revise the many areas of the Plan that are destroying our core food production, such as the open water market trade policy, and to acknowledge the massive environmental degradation being caused by environmental flow targets."

Mr Pitt said he was looking forward to the southern Basin visit, but Victoria's border closure to Queensland and NSW, along with ongoing uncertainty around potential coronavirus outbreaks in Brisbane, forced the postponement of the trip.

"I did meet via video with a number of stakeholders and gave a commitment to travel to the region once we have some certainty from states around borders staying open," Mr Pitt said.

"I thank them all for their understanding."

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