We knew that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was floundering in the drought and putting productive farming regions in NSW under real strain.
Last week's tour with the National Farmers Federation (NFF) has confirmed that, as farmer after farmer provided insights into the challenges created by an inequitable Basin Plan.
At every meeting, I asked local farmers if the plan had been positive or negative for their businesses; the universal response was almost all strongly negative.
The message was clear.
Yes, a plan is needed, but it needs to be more flexible and it needs to be fairer.
Other key messages were the need for increased connectivity across the Basin and that the system should be managed as one, there is inequity between communities and there is a significant disconnect between government departments that is hindering effective community consultation, collaboration and outcomes.
Farmers also reinforced our view that the extra 450 gigalitres cannot be found without having further negative socio-economic impacts or without having further major environmental impacts on southern rivers and the Barmah Choke.
The need for more flexibility was loud and clear.
The value of water security for production and the environment is immense, meaning live monitoring and metering of all take is critical.
The aim of the tour was to engage dialogue between stakeholders to develop an understanding of the challenges of the Basin.
The NFF, NSW Farmers Water Taskforce and NSW Farmers staff gained grassroots insight from the four Basin states into the problems and possible solutions.
The task now is to take these issues and solutions to the Minister for Water, Melinda Pavey, and ensure farmers get a fair deal in a reformed Plan.
- Xavier Martin is the NSW Farmers Water Taskforce chair