THE Cohuna Community Room was packed with drought-affected farmers and residents last Friday when Speak Up 4 Water campaign representatives delivered an update on the current water situation.
The Speak Up Campaign is a not-for -profit organisation advocating for a more balanced water policy, in particular through implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
This was the campaign's first community meeting in Victoria as the organisation continues to grow its influence across communities in the southern New South Wales and Victorian regions.
Forty-five people attended the meeting and Speak Up campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said she was delighted with the attendance.
"It was standing room only as the community room was packed with people interested in Speak Up's work and concerned about ongoing issues with poor water policy," she said.
Speak Up's Canberra adviser Tom Chesson delivered an update on the current water politics, which was followed by a presentation highlighting the impact of the drought along the Darling from Speak Up ambassador Greg Toll.
"There was also a general discussion about how we can identify ways to get more out of every drop of water, and how can we maximise the use of water as it makes its way to the end of the system," Mrs Scoullar said.
"The pressing issue from those at the meeting was the pressure which regional farmers are currently under," Mrs Scoullar said.
Guest speaker Matt Barwick from National Carp Control Plan delivered a presentation on the impact the carp control virus could have on waterways.
"A million square kilometres are carp affected ... environmental flows work. But if we want to see full benefit from environmental flows we will need to do other things too – including tackling carp,” he said.
"New research shows us that if we could reduce carp to 30 per cent of fish biomass and return seasonality of flows, native fish biomass might double. Controlling carp was reported to be responsible for 80% of that response," he said.
Mr Barwick also discussed some of the challenges the plan has to overcome if it is to progress.
"One of the challenges we have is to demystify the concept of viruses. They are normal and not to be frightened of," he said.
"[The plan] has to be based on the weight of science. We're months away from research completion and we're starting to drip feed findings as they are generated," he said.
Mr Barwick emphasised that the final decision to deploy the virus will informed by science and the research needs to take the appropriate amount of time, but that support among communities was growing.
Mrs Scoullar said an outcome of the meeting was a resolution for Speak Up to write to local MP's and Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville, making sure the situation was made clear, and to call for every possible option to be explored to get water available immediately for regional farmers.
Mrs Scoullar thanked everyone who attended and said she hoped as a region we can unite to send a message to Canberra that we have water policy issues that need to be addressed.
"We don't yet have the policy right and this needs urgent attention," she said.
Update 28/8/18: Matt Barwick was misquoted in the original article. It has since been updated to reflect his quotes accurately.