On Monday afternoon, a ‘Can the Plan’ convoy rolled into Canberra, marching on Parliament House to demand action on the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
Southern Basin irrigators have become increasingly frustrated at the lack of action taken by the Basin governments the issues facing water management in the Murray Darling Basin.
Those frustrations were on full display this week when several hundred Southern Basin community members joined together to protest the Murray Darling Basin Plan – with many calling for an immediate stop to the Plan.
The convoy convened at Yass on Monday morning before driving up to Canberra where busses and trucks populated Canberra’s roads, making their voices heard from all over the city.
Dozens of trucks circled around Parliament House with messages such as ‘Can The Plan’ and ‘No Water No Food’ scrawled onto hay bales.
The group, made up of mostly farmers, marched on Parliament House chanting ‘Can The Plan’ and ‘No Water No Food’ as a delegation from the convoy met with Minister for Water David Littleproud and Murray Darling Basin Interim Inspector General Mick Keelty.
Following the the delegation’s meeting on Monday, the group gathered on the lawns of Parliament House on Tuesday morning to announce that Minister Littleproud had committed to seek agreement from the Ministerial Council to investigate the distribution of water in the Southern Basin.
The delegation’s spirits were high as they welcomed the Federal Government’s feedback.
From Parliament House, a smaller group visited the National Farmers’ Federation headquarters where a delegation met with Chief Executive Tony Mahar and representatives of the Victorian Farmers’ Federation and NSW Farmers.
While the NFF did not the support the protest, it echoed the protesters’ frustrations with Basin governments’ lack of action on water policy.
“The NFF and Speak Up 4 Water are in agreement: the Murray Darling Basin Plan is currently not delivering adequately for any stakeholders or values and we need to fix the Plan,” Mr. Mahar said.
“The NFF’s open and farmer-driven policy process is very clear and we want to continue to guarantee it represents the views of our members. Right now that means Governments must get on with ensuring the Plan is fixed and it delivers for rural and regional Australia and the farming communities that rely on it.
“Our members who met with the delegation today including the Victorian Farmers Federation and NSW Farmers don’t see the benefit for farmers or communities in doing away with the monumental commitment and responsibilities included in the Plan, which is seven years into its 12-year life-span.
“Importantly, a number of agreements that sit outside the Plan would not change, in the event that the Plan is paused or scrapped. Machinery like the water sharing arrangements under the Murray Darling Agreement and the ongoing existence of environmental water (already acquired) would remain in operation.”
The convoy departed Canberra late Tuesday with news that the outcomes from Minister Littleproud’s meeting were that Mick Keelty would investigate the Murray Darling Agreement (which is different to the Murray Darling Basin Plan) and report by 31 March 2020.