The leading advocacy group in the NSW Murray region has expressed mixed reaction to comments last week from leading politicians.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has called for South Australia to “pull their weight” in Murray-Darling Basin Plan implementation, and this has been applauded by Murray Regional Strategy Group chairman Alan Mathers.
However, at the same time federal Water Minister David Littleproud has rejected a scientific report that says the SA Lower Lakes were once estuarine, and says the revelations in the report will have no impact on implementation of the Basin Plan.
Mr Mathers described Mr Littleproud’s approach as “surprising”, considering the Basin Plan was largely built on the notion that the Lower Lakes were traditionally freshwater, and therefore required a freshwater solution.
“Obviously at state level our politicians are waking up to the damage to our regional communities from the Basin Plan. Mr Barilaro’s comments indicate that his Government has decided ‘enough is enough’.
“This is a welcome development, especially coming into next month’s meeting of all basin Water Ministers (known as MinCo), and suggests New South Wales is going to take a much stronger stance in protecting our communities.
“This also appears to be in line with commentary from Victoria, so hopefully these states will join together and fight for the Northern Victoria and Southern New South Wales regions which are being hit so hard by this failing plan.”
But Mr Mathers said the ongoing denial of David Littleproud to acknowledge serious issues with Basin Plan implementation was disappointing and frustrating.
“Mr Littleproud has adopted the approach that the plan must be implemented ‘in full and on time’, regardless of the collateral damage. It is hard to understand how he can be so blinkered when the rural communities his party represents are hurting so much. Many people have tried to explain to Mr Littleproud that, despite what he says, this is not ‘the best plan we’ve got’ and that we have to live with it. He must help fix it so that we can all live with it. The plan is failing on social, economic and environmental grounds; we need to reset and improve it.
“The Federal Government is obviously finding the plan a difficult political challenge. However, when this occurs the best solution is to focus on developing a strategy that is in the best interests of our nation.
“What we keep rolling out at the moment is not in the best interests of rural communities or the environment it is trying to protect. It’s a political plan based on questionable science and should be acknowledged as such.
“The Murray Regional Strategy Group encourages Mr Barilaro and his National colleagues at state and federal level to continue the dialogue with the Federal Water Minister until he understands that Australia does not want a second rate Basin Plan that destroys communities and individual livelihoods.
“We want the fair and balanced plan that politicians promised would be delivered. Anything short of that is unacceptable,” Mr Mathers said.