Opinion

Goulburn Valley can’t be halted by virus

By James Bennett

They say it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

When it comes to the spread of the coronavirus, it doesn’t get any worse than this.

In a metaphorical sense, one of the symptoms we're all suffering is uncertainty.

Nobody can predict what will happen tomorrow. Will there be a vaccine this week or in three months? Will I have to work from home?

There's still uncertainty when major sporting events will start, if they even will.

The share market is falling one day but responding the next.

That's what this pandemic has done, create uncertainty that's translated into fear.

And regardless of what people think, the fear is justified because our way of life has been interrupted and it's uncertain when it will be back to normal.

Luckily, not one coronavirus case has been reported in the Goulburn Valley region.

So what can we do — as a community — to help the nation through this crisis?

Well, we have a duty and obligation to keep food production going.

This region is a critical producer of fruit and dairy products.

One of the world’s largest fruit canneries is headquartered here in Shepparton.

Tongala, Tatura and Kyabram are producing milk at a time when the Gippsland region has been hit for six from the bushfires earlier this year.

And although not critical to our wellbeing — or livers — the region makes some fine wines as well.

Panic buying in supermarkets hasn’t just been limited to toilet rolls, tissues and hand sanitisers.

Anyone who was shopping at Riverside Plaza Coles on Monday afternoon would be aware of the empty shelves in all areas of the store.

It's the busiest I've personally witnessed at that store at about 5.30 in the afternoon.

There seemed to be a tense feeling in the air as some people looked worried to put more than one of the same item in their trolley.

Even I felt guilty putting groceries in my basket, but the reality was I didn't have any food at home for dinner as I'm generally a day-to-day shopper.

At the moment it feels like living through a slow moving horror film.

So at a time when Australia has all but sent white goods production offshore and waved goodbye to the car industry, at least we have vast tracts of land to continue to produce food for the nation.

The Goulburn Valley region provides a vital contribution to social and economic wellbeing in this state.

And don’t be surprised if the hospital is asked to take some elective surgery patients from Melbourne, as the city tries to keep beds free in case the infection curve fails to flatten out.

And in these times of crisis, it’s time to get creative on water rights.

It’s been reported that the Federal Government is considering another economic stimulus package to prevent the economy sliding into recession.

We all know that agricultural output depends on the right amount of rain at the right time.

During my time with the Southern Riverina News in Finley, I saw first-hand the devastation to agriculture during periods of prolonged drought.

One solution could be the state and federal governments delaying or scrapping delivering the 450 Gl upwater in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which is on top of the 2750 Gl, the original agreed target of the plan.

It shouldn't take a pandemic for governments to blame on a lack of food production when they know it has been happening for years.

These are extraordinary times requiring some extraordinary and creative responses from state and federal governments and the community.

The Goulburn Valley community can do its bit by staying fit and healthy, being alert but not alarmed and keeping up its critical food production for which the region has earned a well-deserved reputation.