NSW premier hears irrigators’ concerns
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said local knowledge and issues would be taken into account on future decisions on water management on a visit to the Southern Riverina last week.
Ms Berejiklian said calls for local decision-making to be given higher priority were taken on board.
She has vowed to consider local knowledge in her decision-making, and said last week’s stakeholder meeting was only the start of consultation.
‘‘I don’t believe in one-off meetings,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.
‘‘I feel the communities in Murray are punching above their weight when it comes to making sure we are aware of the issues.
‘‘At Council of Australian Government meetings (on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and other water management issues) we make decisions that can potentially impact the future on these communities and the agricultural industry, and we know we have to get it right.
‘‘The main issue raised (at the meeting) was to make sure every decision point we make considers the views in and around Deniliquin.
NSW Primary Industries and Regional Water Minister Niall Blair was also at the meeting, along with The Nationals’ candidate for Murray Austin Evans and former Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli.
They met with irrigator groups like Southern Riverina Irrigators, West Berriquin Irrigators, Murray Valley Private Diverters, Murray Irrigation Limited, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Murray Darling Association, Edward River Council and Murray River Council.
SRI chairman Graeme Pyle said the meeting covered ‘‘every issue’’ in the Murray Valley region.
‘‘The Premier listened. She was very sympathetic and told us we have a hardworking water minister who has taken other people’s pain, and Minister Blair said he will conduct review of the Department of Primary Industries’ management.’’
Mr Pyle said local irrigators shared their ‘‘general contempt’’ for the MurrayDarling Basin Authority’s inability to offer hope and trust in the MurrayDarling Basin Plan process.
Speak Up campaign spokesperson Shelley Scoullar was involved in a meeting with Ms Berejiklian in Deniliquin
Ms Berejiklian was made acutely aware that poor process within the basin plan implementation had seen those best placed to provide expertise in water management being ignored.
In her brief message to the Premier, Mrs Scoullar said local people had ‘‘bent over backwards‘‘ to engage with governments to ensure productive water was delivered to farms, thus creating wealth and employment for the region and the state.
Further, the Murray Valley wants to continue making a major contribution to the NSW Government’s goal of increasing agricultural productivity by 30 per cent. In 2014-15, gross value irrigated agriculture in NSW was $3.054 billion, of which 23 per cent was contributed by the NSW Murray.
Mrs Scoullar said the government ‘‘cannot afford to see the Murray Valley lose any more water’’.
She said the Premier gave everyone a fair hearing and effectively summed up their concerns.
‘‘Ms Berejiklian promised to be handson in ensuring government departments listen to local communities,’’ she said.
‘‘Although we have heard this message before and been disappointed with the outcomes, we are hoping the Premier is able to walk the talk.’’