Leadership needed

By Southern Riverina News

Genuine political leadership is needed to solve the NSW Murray’s water crisis, but a leading community group says it is concerned this will not occur.

Responding to comments last week from Member for Farrer Sussan Ley on the crisis which is engulfing communities in her electorate, Speak Up deputy chair Lachlan Marshall said everyone agrees with Ms Ley that it is surrounded by complex issues.

“Ms Ley has, quite rightly, highlighted the complexity of the issues impacting the Murray Valley and the communities she represents. We agree there are many things which need to take place at state level, and this includes the challenges with water sharing arrangements.

“However, I think we also need to acknowledge that the Basin Plan was initially a Federal Government initiative and, as a consequence, the Federal Government and its members must take responsibility for its failings.

“To continue with the denial we see from Water Minister David Littleproud is not acceptable and needs to be called out by our local Member. In this instance we do not believe Ms Ley should simply continue to toe the party line,” Mr Marshall said.

He added it seems “inconceivable” that the Federal Government would not intervene in a Basin Plan that was developed on the false premise that a freshwater solution was needed to fix environmental issues in the Lower Lakes.

“We cannot simply dismiss the recently released CSIRO peer-reviewed report which demonstrated the Lower Lakes were traditionally estuarine, which is what Mr Littleproud and the Federal Government are doing.

“Most people would be horrified to think any government – state or federal – would contemplate spending more taxpayers’ money to deliver more water downstream to what was an estuarine system. And in doing this, at the same time the Federal Government is actually condoning the destruction of both the environment and communities in Ms Ley’s electorate. This needs to be called out,” Mr Marshall said.

He said communities in the NSW Murray had worked tirelessly to develop united messaging and present solutions to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and basin governments, as suggested this week by Ms Ley.

“But it does become soul-destroying when we watch our rivers and forests being sacrificed because others do not understand, or do not care, if we are the plan’s collateral damage.”

Mr Marshall said Ms Ley “could learn a lot about our issues and solutions” if she worked more closely with the region’s peak advocacy organisation, the Murray Regional Strategy Group, adding “it’s a shame this has not happened”. There are solutions to the present crisis. One thing which can be done at Commonwealth level is reclassifying conveyance losses. In 2008, the 2007 Water Act was amended with the stroke of a pen to move water from the environmental account to critical human needs.

“Well, right now we have people with critical needs. Their livelihoods are at risk; they are at crisis point. In these desperate times we need strength in political representation and leadership.

“Leaders identify problems and bring people together to facilitate outcomes. They don’t distance themselves or pass the buck,” Mr Marshall concluded.