IRRIGATORS need not bear the brunt of changes to the management of the Murray Darling Basin, a visiting academic says.
Speaking at The Future of the Murray Darling Basin Lessons from History 2021 forum at Rutherglen on Wednesday, Federation University Professor Peter Gell said historical data could be used to guide sound policy-making, shared equitably across the stakeholders.
"We should be able to spread the load across parts of the community and even across generations," he said.
"Then we're not just having irrigators bearing the load of 200 years of environmental degradation.
"Over the long term, history has shown us there might be a range of solutions to the future health of the Murray Darling Basin such as pollution mitigation and water volume.
"For too long the conversation has had a very narrow focus on water volume."
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Professor Gell said it was vital to have input from all stakeholders.
"You only have to look back to 2014 when the Murray Darling Basin Plan was burnt in a pyre at Griffith to see a community disempowered," Professor Gell.
"We need to have irrigators, rice growers, historians and politicians around the table; you can't say 'you can't contribute because you don't have a science degree'," Professor Gell said.
Tuileries at De Bortoli Rutherglen Estate and Federation University are co-hosting the two-day conference, which aimed to offer perspectives about what had happened on the Murray Darling system during the past 170 years.
It has assembled experts in the environment, Basin policy, regional studies, historians and stakeholders to better understand how the Murray Darling system functions.
Federation University Australia vice chancellor and president Professor Duncan Bentley said the integration of the community, three levels of government and indigenous groups was vital to the future of the Murray Darling Basin.
He said engagement with indigenous communities was critical.
"When you have a child with a complex health condition you don't just rely on one specialist, you bring together all of the parties," he said.
"It's just the same for the Murray Darling; we need all of the diagnostics in the room to come up with the better solution."
The conference continues at Tuileries on Thursday.
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