One thousand farmers from across Victoria descended on Melbourne on June 3 to protest the state government's North South Pipeline plan, which will bring 75 billion litres of water each year from the Goulburn River across the Great Dividing Range to Sugarloaf Reservoir. The pipeline is due to be completed by 2010.
The Mildura contingent had left at 2.30am to get to Melbourne in time for the protest.
Premier John Brumby's government acknowledges that the north of the state is drought-ravaged but claims that the water will come from upgrading the ageing northern irrigation system to reduce losses. The saved water will be divided equally between the irrigators, the river system and Melbourne.
The protest was organised by Plug the Pipe, a group involving mainly northern Victorian irrigators and farmers that has been campaigning against the pipeline since June 2007.
The group disputes the government's estimates on water savings, and says there will be no spare water for Melbourne.
The Liberal and National Parties heavily dominated the protest, however not all the farmers present were supporters of these parties. Many were critical of big companies for buying up water allocations purely to trade it.
Environmentalists and Socialist Alliance members also participated in the protest because the pipeline avoids the issue of water conservation. Current water restrictions in Melbourne apply only to householders and not business, the biggest users of water.
There have also been protests in Shepparton (800 people), Kerang (600 people), and Lockington (300 people) demanding the plan be scrapped.