Water and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan were hot topics of conversation when Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters met with Campaspe Shire councillors and Wyuna dairy farmer Russell Pell last week.
Ms Chesters discussed other issues including connectivity, energy, transport and regional development with the councillors and concluded her day with a visit to the Pell farm, which is considered at the forefront of water efficiency.
Mr Pell milks 750 cows and has invested significantly in getting the irrigation infrastructure on his 600ha farm spot on.
He has been heavily involved in different water issues and committees over the years concerning water, including the basin plan.
He said it was great to have somebody from the Labor party show a genuine interest in the community and the plan.
‘‘All I want is a better basin. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and it is easy to talk about these issues, but I do get a good feeling that we will be working together in the future,’’ Mr Pell said.
‘‘Twelve months ago there wasn’t much action but I think we are in a space now where people are starting to take notice and we need to make the most of that position.’’
Mr Pell said while farmers across the board had to give up water, it was important the process remained as fair and as even as possible across the country.
‘‘There is a lot at stake here and there is more in this then just water — the future of our communities depend on this outcome,’’ Mr Pell said.
Ms Chesters said the visit was successful and she was keen to return.
‘‘It is important to develop better communication and relationships at a grass roots level. I find it concerning that Canberra is not listening and they need to get better at that,’’ she said.
Ms Chesters said she was passionate about rural communities and the only way to improve her knowledge was to spend time talking to people.
‘‘People with passion for what they do are infectious and spending time with someone like Russell is a great way to learn because of the practical knowledge he has. He has a long history involved with water issues,’’ she said.
Campaspe Shire Mayor Adrian Weston said councillors appreciated the time Ms Chesters spent with them.
‘‘We had some good discussions and many will be ongoing,’’ Cr Weston said.
‘‘We spoke about opportunities for renewable energy and how to unlock the potential for this region.
We also spoke about connectivity, transport and regional development and ways to invest and diversify in our economy to ensure enduring economic prosperity.’’
Cr Weston said loss of irrigation water and the consequent loss of productivity was a huge concern for the shire and ways to mitigate the impact were extremely important for the future of Campaspe.
‘‘Water is an extremely complicated issue and it is often the shire level of government that has to pick up the pieces,’’ he said.
‘‘Once you cross the tipping point things like whole factories close, so we need to understand how individual action impacts on tipping points.’’
- Sophie Baldwin