Opinion

It’s time to face the music | Letters to the editor

By Riverine Herald

OVER the next two weeks there will opportunities to hear from two people who have so far not given our region much support in our Basin Plan fight.

This Thursday there will be a meeting in Deniliquin hosted by National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson and the following week a NSW Farmers meeting with Member for Farrer and Environment Minister Sussan Ley as guest speaker.

The NFF meeting is to discuss the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and, according to the invitation, to “develop an enriched understanding of the challenges and perspectives of the Basin”.

It is no secret that many people throughout our region believe they have been let down by the NFF, which appears to follow the mantra of its Coalition mates in continuing to call for delivery of the Basin Plan “as it’s the best we’ve got”, despite the social, economic and environmental damage it is causing.

Hopefully this week’s meeting will be an opportunity to change the view of the NFF.

It will see first-hand that: (a) the flexibility which was promised in this horrible ‘plan’ is non-existent; (b) we are wasting enormous quantities of water through unnecessary flooding and trying to push too much through the system; (c) the water they are trying to send to SA will not fit down the system; (d) along the way it is causing significant environmental damage; (e) how long are we going to accept evaporation of 1.6 Sydney Harbours in the Lower Lakes, and constantly pouring fresh, usable water out to sea etc.

If the NFF acknowledges that the Basin Plan is broken – which we all know – and gets on board to support grassroots farmers, it has the opportunity to ‘bounce back’ and be a genuine voice in Canberra for our region. If it wants to continue following the Coalition’s political line, nothing will change.

Next week it will be interesting to hear from our federal Member for Farrer and Environment Minister Sussan Ley who, not surprisingly, hasn’t been seen much in our region since the May 2019 election, especially public appearances.

Before the election, when commenting on the protest rally in Albury, Ms Ley was quoted in the Deniliquin Pastoral Times as saying: ‘‘Tuesday’s protest in Albury was about the Basin Plan being too inflexible, with not enough give and take between environmental water and water for farmers, and I actually agree with that argument.”

Perhaps Ms Ley would like to tell the NSW Farmers’ meeting, and repeat publicly, what she has done since being elevated to the position of Environment Minister to fix her acknowledged “not enough give and take between environmental water and water for farmers”.

As she “wakes up every morning thinking about water” I am sure she would have taken action on this serious issue, though for some reason I must have missed it; just like she seems to have missed the constant local calls to ‘fix the basin plan’, instead ignoring the local advocacy groups which are fighting so hard on behalf of our communities.

— Jon Gatacre, Deniliquin, NSW.