A GROUP of concerned citizens will be in Canberra today with a clear message – ‘‘don’t sacrifice our communities’’.
They are representing a 300-strong crowd which attended a water forum in Moama in April and called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and water ministers to meet and discuss their concerns about the future of some rural towns.
They are disappointed the PM has taken no action, so decided the next option was to take their message to the nation’s capital, where a Ministerial Council (MinCo) meeting of water ministers will be held.
‘‘All we want is a guarantee that our communities will be protected; we don’t think that is too much to ask,’’ delegation organiser and Speak Up campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said.
‘‘As the government proceeds with implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan it keeps breaking promises and ignoring calls to avoid damaging forever the social and economic fabric of our country towns and their rural surrounds.
‘‘We do not think this is acceptable and want that fact to be known.
‘‘There is enough water for the environment and the needs of our farmers, but what we are sadly lacking is the political willpower to achieve the effective balance that has been promised for a decade.
‘‘All we get are broken promises, political deals and a bureaucracy that gets fed billions of dollars, yet doesn’t have the courage to stand up and say ‘there is a better way’, and ‘we can’t do this without hurting people’.
‘‘In the meantime we have population and job losses in some areas of 50 per cent. That is unacceptable in any Australian community.’’
Mrs Scoullar said regional communities which are being adversely impacted by the basin plan want genuine consultation and updates on what politicians have planned for their future.
‘‘We don’t want the ‘tick a box’ consultation that has been part of the process so far, and we want our politicians to listen and understand our concerns. That came out loud and clear at the water forum,” she said.
Mrs Scoullar said Speak Up had asked for greater transparency from MinCo, increased dialogue with affected communities and greater engagement at basin community level.
‘‘Communities are extremely concerned that decisions which threaten their future are being made behind closed doors,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.
‘‘For example, we believe a vital Memorandum of Understanding between basin plan states is being discussed this week. This is a vital document that could change towns and individuals forever, but we don’t even know what’s in it.
‘‘Is that good enough? We don’t think so,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.