Melbourne rally to voice basin plan frustration

By Riverine Herald

RURAL communities are being asked to join forces and deliver a strong message of disenchantment at a rally in Melbourne.

It is being organised by the community based Speak Up Campaign to coincide with a meeting of federal and state Water Ministers, known as MinCo, to discuss the next phase of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

MinCo will meet in Melbourne in December, though a date has not yet been announced.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said rural communities need to unite and leave Ministers in no doubt that they are fed up with being the collateral damage for a poorly implemented plan which is based more on winning marginal seats than protecting the environment.

She said Speak Up was looking for community ‘champions’ who were prepared to help promote and organise rally participants from their particular area.

“We want people from throughout the NSW and Victorian Murray regions, the Goulburn Valley, the Murrumbidgee and our city cousins to join us in Melbourne for this rally,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

“We need to deliver a loud and clear message that we have had enough of this politically driven, badly implemented plan. It is time governments took decisive action to protect our communities, not destroy them.’’

The rally comes at an important time in the basin plan process, as the MinCo meeting will discuss the social and economic neutrality test around recovering an additional 450 gigalitres of water.

“When the basin plan was legislated we were told the 450 would only proceed if there were no adverse social and economic impacts,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

“Every clear thinking person can see this is an absolute impossibility. It simply cannot be done.

“Yet as we have seen over the past six years of implementation, promises and commitments to our rural communities are baseless.

“Politicians have ignored the damage and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority continually refuses to properly acknowledge the plan’s negative effects.

“Our rally needs to let these people know that our communities do matter and we will fight to save them.”

Mrs Scoullar said it was also important to make our city cousins more aware of the damage being caused by the basin plan and the environmental charade that is being played out.

“The way in which city people have supported the drought effort is an indication of the strong support they have for food and fibre producers,’’ she said.

“Unfortunately they have been ill-informed about the basin plan by powerful environmental lobby groups who know how to influence politicians and the media.

“Unless we change direction the plan will go down in history as the biggest ever waste of taxpayers’ money. Pink batts and school halls will pale into insignificance compared to the basin plan.

“And yet if bureaucrats and politicians were prepared to admit that mistakes have been made and work collaboratively and genuinely with local communities on effective solutions, we could build a plan that works for everyone.

“That is our aim and we want everyone to join us in Melbourne to deliver it.”

Anyone who is prepared to be a ‘champion’ for their community should contact Mrs Scoullar on 0414960785 or email [email protected]