Just when it was needed most the irrigation community was ready to push through the the last steps of the arduous Basin Plan.
With a favourable combination of commodity prices, a decent season and workable water prices, representative groups entered the new year with a new spirit of cooperation.
They still say the Basin Plan was not done right, but they are keen to move on and no, the missing ingredient for sustained prosperity is certainty.
Finley, NSW mixed farmer and new chairwoman of the Southern Riverina Irrigators representative body Gabrielle Coupland said “reform fatigue” had set in from years of worry over water availability but irrigators finally had an optimistic outlook.
“Uncertainty is the biggest challenge now. It’s not an overnight decision what crop you invest in, what infrastructure you build,” she said.
Mrs Coupland said despite concerns about the workings of the Basin Plan, many in her district around Deniliquin “had accepted the reforms and just want to get on with it”.
Despite her frustration with yet more delays to the Basin Plan, with Labor and the Greens blocking key changes by the Murray Darling Basin Authority last week, she supported NSW Water Minister Niall Blair’s decision to withdraw his state.
Mr Blair and his Victorian counterpart Lisa Neville said the political interjection into the reform made it untenable.
Whitton, NSW cropper and chairman of NSW Irrigators Richard Stott supports Mr Blair’s action, despite the disruption to industry and the positive outlook.
“The Basin Plan has its problems, but the on-farm recovery programs have been positive around here,” he said.
His district around Griffith is looking up on a range of fronts and “we just wanted to get the Basin Plan done so we could get on with farming”.
Coleambally, NSW, irrigator and mixed cropper Trent Gardiner said the Senate vote block the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s changes to the Basin Plan risked gains for the river systems and farm communities.
Significant economic and environmental benefits flowed from on-farm investment programs, where a portion of an irrigators entitlements were handed back to the Commonwealth in return for investment in water efficient systems.
“This is straight out political rubbish. Labor and the Greens are holding the success of the Basin Plan to ransom,” he said.
“The efficiency programs have been fantastic for the community here.
“You can’t rent a house in Coleambally at the moment, you have to book a machinery operator months in advance and many farms have become much, much more efficient.
“What does it matter if SA gets water from farmers (without the offsets) or from efficiencies and rule changes?”
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