THE resounding message from Wednesday’s water rally can be summed up in premier Barry O’Farrell’s words:
“tell the federal government to get stuffed”.
Few in the 7000-strong crowd would disagree, with the message – relayed through local member Adrian Piccoli –highlighting the deeply political phase the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has entered.
While the event was more understated than the fiery gatherings at the Yoogali Club in 2010 and 2011, the feeling of desperation was palpable.
With irrigation communities now relying on the state government to lobby for a balanced plan, NSW primary industries minister Katrina Hodgkinson drew raucous applause when she suggested the plan was the work of a “grasping Green hand”.
Video of the rally. Courtesy of Vince Bucello.
It was the first time anyone from the state government had suggested there was a grand plan for the basin to reach a set outcome – something local stakeholders had suspected since the first version of the plan was released in 2010.
But the most fervent applause was saved for the message Murrumbidgee MP Adrian Piccoli read out from the premier.
Mr O’Farrell’s statement sent a rush of delight through those gathered, evidence that the state government truly were behind them.
The purpose of the rally was to leave a lasting impression on Ms Hodgkinson leading into her meeting with federal water minister Tony Burke today.
And that’s exactly what passionate community members did.
“Minister Hodgkinson, we need you to get down and dirty and start the fight,” local farmer Chint Quarisa said in his heartfelt address to the rally.
“We will not let our pioneers’ sacrifices, their toil and their hard work go in vain.
“He (Mr Burke) betrayed us, he’s a liar and he’s a charlatan. He cannot be believed or trusted. Please remember this, Ms Hodgkinson, when you go in and talk to him.
“Now it’s time to draw a line in the sand, clench our fists and fight this one to the end – because we have to.”
Mr Quarisa spoke of the thousands of people in the basin who had lost their jobs already, and those whose homes, farms and businesses had been devalued by the uncertainty of the plan.
He was one of six passionate speakers at the event, including year 12 student Elise Delpiano, Finley High School principal Bernie Roebuck and A&G Machinery director Jim Rolfe.
The final, and most anticipated, words came from Ms Hodgkinson herself as she offered her unwavering support to the gathered thousands, promising the state government would not roll over, would not compromise irrigation communities and would not go down without a fight.