ABC Rural: Tuesday, 16/08/2011. See:
What the river means to you: John Pettigrew, environmental farmer
By Warwick Long from Bunbartha 3634
A retired orchardist who lives on the banks of Goulburn River just north of Shepparton is under no illusion when it comes to the importance of the river to his community.
"It is our life support here in the Goulburn Valley as it is (with other rivers) right across the Murrary-Darling Basin."
"It's the foundation of all our communities and our production systems."
John Pettigrew is the Deputy Chair of the Environmental Farmers Network and someone whose life's work was growing fruit in the Goulburn Valley.
He says he is watching the development of the Murray-Darling Basin plan very closely.
"I think this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this right."
Mr Pettigrew is a passionate environmentalist who believes in a scientific approach to save the basin, but he doesn't think the work of irrigators to became better water users is being taken into account by the authority.
"There is no shortage of water to keep our current agricultural production in tact."
"It is just how we use it."
Mr Pettigrew doesn't believe the process of developing a basin plan has been well handled by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
"I have been a bit frustrated, as everyone has, (about) whether they are pro-environmental water or pro-irrigation.
"I was disappointed that the guide came out so specific.
"I was hoping that the guide would come out more on principles and more of a discussion paper than a detailed guide the way it turned out.
"I think that made consultation very difficult.
"My biggest fear is that we won't have a genuine plan based on science to even get that far.
"I'd be relaxed to debate politically once we had a plan based on science and took into account the needs of the environment.
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