Ex-chair hits out

Re­placed leader says SRI is ‘pre­pared to lose cred­i­bil­ity’

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - NEWS -

Gabrielle Cou­p­land says South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors mem­bers have made it clear the ad­vo­cacy body is ‘‘pre­pared to lose cred­i­bil­ity’’ af­ter she was told she wouldn’t have the sup­port of key stake­hold­ers if she was to re­main as chair­per­son.

Mrs Cou­p­land did not stand at last week’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing, mak­ing way for Ba­rooga farmer Chris Brooks to step into the role.

Mrs Cou­p­land said at the AGM she re­alised if she re­mained as chair her sup­port from fel­low stake­hold­ers would have di­min­ished.

‘‘It was made very clear there was a vo­cal and force­ful group of peo­ple who didn’t be­lieve my ap­proach was ap­pro­pri­ate, so I chose not to stand,’’ she said.

‘‘There’s an op­por­tu­nity for us to be far more pro­duc­tive and col­lab­o­ra­tive. I didn’t stand be­cause a few peo­ple be­haved in a way that (sug­gested) if I won (the elec­tion) they wouldn’t have been co­op­er­a­tive around the SRI ta­ble.

‘‘If I had won the elec­tion, and the num­bers sug­gest this would have been the case, I would have lost cred­i­bil­ity over time with ex­ter­nal wa­ter stake­hold­ers and I didn’t want to be a part of bring­ing down what I and the SRI team have worked so hard to re­build.’’

Mrs Cou­p­land added prior to be­com­ing chair­per­son last year the rep­u­ta­tion of SRI was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing and over the past 12 months she had worked hard to re­build the ‘‘strong voice it once had’’.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, there is a group of peo­ple who think a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach and well in­formed de­bate will not help ir­ri­ga­tors in this re­gion achieve what we need to achieve.

‘‘Peo­ple who are not pre­pared to work hon­estly, con­struc­tively and fac­tu­ally will not be part of the wa­ter con­ver­sa­tion in the broader con­text.

‘‘There has been un­savoury be­hav­iour at sev­eral meet­ings and I am ex­plor­ing other av­enues to rep­re­sent ir­ri­ga­tors and agri­cul­ture with­out sub­ject­ing my­self and other will­ing par­tic­i­pants to that type of be­hav­iour.’’

Mr Brooks said his key pri­or­ity was to build a united voice to fight for the re­gion.

‘‘I want full unity of all wa­ter or­gan­i­sa­tions in the area so we can con­cen­trate all our en­er­gies and ef­forts with a sin­gle voice against the ex­ter­nal forces that have been in­flict­ing un­fair and un­rea­son­able neg­a­tive wa­ter poli­cies on our val­ley,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘We need or­gan­i­sa­tions in­clud­ing SRI, Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion and Rice­grow­ers As­so­ci­a­tion work­ing in uni­son.

‘‘It is im­per­a­tive that we have these groups, as well as all other sec­tors and com­mit­tees in our com­mu­nity on the same page and all fight­ing for the one cause.

‘‘Pos­i­tive steps to achieve this have been taken in re­cent times and I am de­ter­mined that they will con­tinue and be suc­cess­ful, with SRI an in­te­gral part of the process,’’ Mr Brooks said.

De­spite not hav­ing a role with SRI, Mrs Cou­p­land said she wasn’t leav­ing the wa­ter con­ver­sa­tion yet.

‘‘Agri­cul­ture and ir­ri­ga­tion in this re­gion has huge po­ten­tial — the fo­cus by mi­nori­ties on lo­calised grand­stand­ing and emo­tive de­bate only serves as a dis­trac­tion for what this re­gion is re­ally about and what we do — mak­ing ev­ery drop count.

‘‘We are busi­nesses built on ef­fi­ciency, time­li­ness and flex­i­bil­ity. This is what we do and who we are.

‘‘I’ll al­ways help out the younger gen­er­a­tion who are just start­ing to en­ter the wa­ter pol­i­tics dis­cus­sion; I will help them as much as I can and point them in the right di­rec­tion.

‘‘I think it’s fan­tas­tic we have new faces who want to join in the wa­ter con­ver­sa­tion. We need some youth­ful vi­tal­ity and a new ap­proach,’’ Mrs Cou­p­land said.

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