A community campaign is furious about the lack of planning with an issue of national importance which could leave a trail of economic destruction.
Invitations went out on Thursday, October 18 from the Australian Government’s Murray-Darling Basin Water Infrastructure (MDBWI) Program, to participate in community meetings beginning next week.
Speak Up Chair Shelley Scoullar said there is extreme community frustration at the lack of notification and planning for the meetings, which started yesterday in Mildura and run until November 6 across a number of regional centres in the Southern Basin.
‘‘The Commonwealth Government has known about this since June, and the way it is being organised shows it is nothing more than an 11th hour, tick the box ‘consultation’.
‘‘How can our Federal Government be so disorganised that notification of meetings go out less than a week before the consultation period begins?’’
The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MinCo) agreed on June 8 to develop additional socioeconomic ‘neutrality’ criteria by the end of 2018, to apply to programs and proposals to recover another 450GL of water under the Murray Darling Basin Plan. The need for effective community and stakeholder communication and consultation was acknowledged.
‘‘The whole point of broadening the socioeconomic criteria was to pick up the wider impacts to communities due to the recovery of an additional 450GL. Coming out of the last MinCo meeting we were certainly under the impression that on-farm efficiencies for Victoria and NSW were off the table, productive water was safe and the Commonwealth was looking for urban and industry water to make up the gaps.
‘‘From the brief look I have had of the additional criteria they still only focus on individual participation and not the broader impacts and or the market impacts through the reduction to the productive pool.’’
Mrs Scoullar commended the NSW and Victorian governments for their much broader criteria, however she is concerned the Commonwealth’s additional criteria fails to protect communities from on-farm projects outside their valley.
‘‘For example, there is nothing currently in place to prevent farmers in South Australia from participating in a project in SA and then replacing the entitlements they returned to the Commonwealth from the upstream communities. This has the potential for further significant detrimental economic impact in regions like the NSW Murray. We know that this has already happened, in the Murray, Victorian and Goulburn systems,’’ she said.
Adding to her long list of frustrations at the lack of transparency and failure to adequately organise consultation, for which venues had not been publicly announced, was the fact the Federal Minister David Littleproud himself said ‘‘we’ve got one chance to get this right’’.
‘‘On top of all this, noone from government has even considered the third party impacts on trying to deliver this additional 450GL. Issues around how the volumes will be delivered have not even been resolved.
‘‘This whole process seems like a set up to achieve political gain, again at the expense of our communities.
‘‘Giving people less than a week’s notice is totally unacceptable.
‘‘Those who have managed to get their hands on some water will be flat out with hay or preparing for harvest. Those who have a small amount of water for summer cropping will be preparing for that.’’
Mrs Scoullar urged everyone to register to attend one of the consultation meetings.
The Deniliquin meeting is expected to be held November 2. Register your interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘‘This is not just about farmers. If you have been employed by a farmer or as a result of their produce, if a farmer has ever used your business or if you want to know where your food comes from then get to one of the meetings. Your community depends on it.’’
Mrs Scoullar said she would be in touch with Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley expressing concern at the process.