Murray-Darling Basin communities should carefully guard the region’s reputation as a food producer, and that means protecting the rivers, prominent chef and businessman Stefano de Pieri said on a visit to the Goulburn Valley.
He was speaking in support of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, following recent criticism and speculation that the 450Gl of ‘up-water’ may not be delivered if socio-economic impacts were considered too great.
Mr de Pieri pointed to examples around the world where food production areas had been decimated by poor environmental management, leaving the regions with a poor reputation.
While Australia was developing a clean and green image for food production, he warned this reputation could be put at risk if the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was not supported.
Asked about critics who suggest he should stick to cooking and leave the water plan to others, the restauranteur said with a smile, ‘‘everyone who eats becomes a food critic’’.
‘‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
‘‘If your food comes from an environment that has been compromised, it is likely to lose its value.’’
Mr de Pieri has a food business in Mildura and has published a book, A Gondola on the Murray, which became a television series.
A University of Melbourne graduate, Mr de Pieri has been critical of farmers and the Victorian Government for their approach to the basin plan and has cast doubt on reports that attribute job losses to the loss of water from irrigation districts.
He believes the vagaries of the commodity markets have more to do with the economics of farming fortunes.
‘‘People are undermining the plan and making it die of a thousand cuts.’’
Mr de Pieri was critical of Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce, who he said talked about supporting the plan at the same time as casting doubt on whether the full amount of water could be delivered to the environment.
He pointed to a recent report on the diminishing bird life across the basin and said the loss of such wildlife was a tragedy for future generations and impossible to quantify.
Mr de Pieri visited Shepparton recently to speak to hospitality students in the Cooking for a Better Future program.