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26 June 2019
What do you think when you hear the phrase, ‘The Murray Darling Basin Plan’.
I’ve been reporting on it since its inception by the Howard Government and confess to often hearing a lot of white noise when it’s mentioned.
So many Sydney Harbours or olympic swimming pools of water to be preserved for the environment.
It’s a difficult concept to get your head around.
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How is that water saved? When does it go to the environment? How is the water measured? You see what I mean: white noise of water numbers that very few completely understand.
It’s remarkable how the fog suddenly lifts when you’re face-to-face with an irrigator facing ruin.
Lachlan Marshall was in his mid-twenties and farming in south east Queensland when he was enticed to move the fourth generation dairy farming operation to the southern Riverina with the promise of plenty of water.
“We moved here for water, for the ability to grow our own home grown forage,” he said.
“When we moved here there was an 87 percent reliability of receiving high allocation levels.”
A decade on and the 1800 dairy cow operation with milking three times a day and employing 17 people should be a fine example of what an innovative approach can do.
The Marshalls use the latest in dairy genetics and his workers love their jobs and are as committed to the business as the owners.
But water reliability is now just 50 percent and the farm has been dealt one disaster after another, with devastating floods in 2016 that irrigators blame on environmental flows being pushed through the system to South Australia, and now two years in succession of zero water allocation.
Lachlan openly talks about the shame he feels at contemplating selling up.
“We’re looking down the barrel of having to make some very tough decisions at the opening of the irrigation season if we have no allocation,” he said.
“I can’t continue to lose money the way we are and we’re going to have to shut our dairy down.”
Asked what he will do for a living, Lachlan can only say, ‘the unthinkable’.
“Four generations of my family have bred these cows up… that’s a bit of a rabbit hole that none of us want to look down right now.”
As for the debt accrued in building up such a big operation he said ‘that’s a millstone that will probably hang around my neck for the rest of my life.’
He’s close to tears as he talks of his trip to Canberra to meet the Prime Minster, Scott Morrison, to argue for something to be done.
On the way, he read a letter his 11-year-old daughter had given him to pass on to the PM.
“I was naive thinking my kids didn’t understand the situation and the pressures,” he said.
“She called for leadership. She begged the Prime Minister for help to save her home.”
As they say, out of the mouth of babes.
The entire June 26, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!
The entire June 29, 2019 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!