Deputy PM hears water woes

By Country News

The Murray Regional Strategy Group met with Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack in Deniliquin on June 7, with the objective of developing policy solutions that will underpin the region’s future.

The meeting gave a range of the region’s community, local government and industry organisations the opportunity to highlight their calls for changes to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The advocacy group presented Mr McCormack with its latest document, titled Let’s Fix The Basin Plan.

Group chair Alan Mathers said the importance of action to adjust the plan and protect regional communities was drummed into the deputy PM.

‘‘Mr McCormack listened with interest to the issues we raised and agreed to work with us towards finding solutions,’’ Mr Mathers said.

‘‘He also supported our concept of a meeting involving MRSG (Murray Regional Strategy Group) and the four federal ministers involved in water policy — himself, as Minister for Infrastructure; Minister for Water David Littleproud; Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie; and Minister for Environment Sussan Ley.’’

The group highlighted key components of its Let’s Fix The Basin Plan document, including:

■Immediately implement a framework that will ensure no further water acquisition for the environment until a review is completed.

■Engage an independent consultant to undertake a comprehensive review of the basin plan’s 35 reviews undertaken to date.

The purpose of this review is to devise an improved process for delivery of the basin plan that does not result in further negative social, economic or environmental impacts.

The review should be undertaken with genuine consultation and collaboration with impacted communities, to re-build trust.

■A new co-operative and adaptive partnership model for future implementation of a basin plan, which includes a capacity to incorporate flexibility, new information and adaptive management into plan decisions.

■The current timeframes for the basin plan should be revised, with the basin plan to recommence once the comprehensive review of the plan is completed and agreed upon by basin communities and governments.

The group acknowledged the two recently announced Federal Government inquiries into the socio-economic impacts and water market transparency of the basin plan, but said these inquiries did not excuse the need for the more comprehensive review suggested in Let’s Fix the Basin Plan.

MRSG members include the Berrigan, Murray River, Edward River and Murrumbidgee councils; Eagle Creek Pumping Syndicate; Moira Private Irrigation District; Murray Irrigation Ltd; Murray Valley Private Diverters; Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia; Southern Riverina Irrigators; Speak Up Campaign; West Corurgan Private Irrigation District; and Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre.