A huge congratulations to both Gerry Leach and Richard Anderson, who were both rewarded as VFF Life Members at the recent 2023 VFF Annual Conference in Melbourne.
Gerry’s record of service to the VFF and Victoria’s farming community extends well beyond the many years he served as the Chair of the VFF’s Land Management Committee.
He first joined the Victorian Farmers Union in 1970 and was there when the VFF was formed in 1979.
As a VFU member, we was secretary of the Walpeup branch in the Mallee.
Later in the VFF he served as President of the North West Grains and later the North West Pastoral district councils in the 1980s.
Gerry was first appointed to the VFF Land Management Committee in 1992. He became Chair of the Committee in 2005 and continues today as the Chair of our Planning, Environment and Climate Change Committee.
Through his leadership on land management and sustainability issues, Gerry has had a great impact on the policy direction of the state in the interests of agriculture and the environment.
He played an important role in securing Victoria’s moratorium on Coal Seem Gas Fracking.
Gerry has also shown a tremendous contribution and commitment to serving farmers in his region.
He was Chair of the Mallee Regional Catchment and Land Protection Board, from 1995 and was the inaugural Chair of the Mallee Catchment Management Authority from 1997 to 2000.
He has also served on the Board of the Ouyen Livestock Exchange since 2003.
As a representative of the VFF, he has taken leadership at a national level serving as a member of the NFF Natural Resources Committee from 2005 and took on the role of Chair from 2006 to 2017.
A few years ago Gerry travelled to Azerbaijan to accept a United Nations Award on behalf of the Victorian Rabbit Action Network which he has chaired since 2014.
He is greatly respected for his thoughtful, respectful and gentle approach to issues and in the advice that he provides.
He has always been a great believer in farmer unity, the promise of the VFF to deliver this unity, and has always acted in a way to uphold this principle.
Well done Gerry for a lifetime of work and dedication to Victorian agriculture.
Richard was elected to the VFF Water Council in 2004 and was elected Chair in 2006 and served in that role until 2021.
As Chair of the Water Council he worked with four Victorian water ministers John Thwaites, Tim Holding, Peter Walsh and Lisa Neville and six Federal water ministers including Malcolm Turnbull, Penny Wong, Tony Bourke, Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud and Keith Pitt.
Through the entire life of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, Richard has been at the forefront of the debate trying his hardest to ensure the best deal for irrigators and the protection of their entitlements.
In 2004 he helped develop the 80:20 deal which saw the VFF and Water Service Committees work together to develop a proposal where farmers were recognised with a legal right to their ‘sales’ water, and receive 80 % of it and 20 % be allocated to the environment.
Richard represented the VFF on the NFF Water Taskforce for 15 years and strongly defended the rights of Victorian irrigators through the most difficult water policy environment in Australian history.
At the local level he has been a member of the Rochester- Campaspe Water Service Committee since 1988 and Chair of the Committee since 1994.
He was also president of the Natural Resources Conservation League from 2004 to 2008.
He was a driving force behind a number of water supply projects – especially the Mitiamo and district domestic and stock pipeline completed in 2021.
Richard has always been greatly respected for his tremendous breadth of knowledge on water policy issues – which is arguably one of the most politically and legally complex issue that faces the farming community.
His expertise has been relied upon by water users, managers and ministers.
And in the politically charged environment of water policy, he has always acted with great respect and integrity.
Well deserved Richard and the Victorian Farmers Federation thank you for your hard work.