Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

A cri­sis rally is be­ing or­gan­ised in re­sponse to the lo­cal im­pact of drought.

It will fight for wa­ter to be made avail­able so crops in the re­gion can be fin­ished, and also used to help grow des­per­ately needed fod­der for drought-stricken stock else­where in NSW and Queens­land.

Farm­ers, busi­ness lead­ers and com­mu­nity mem­bers are be­ing urged to at­tend the rally to help send a clear mes­sage to politi­cians.

It will be held next Mon­day, Au­gust 27 in the De­niliquin RSL Club Au­di­to­rium, from 10am.

The rally is be­ing co­or­di­nated by the Speak Up Cam­paign, with help from var­i­ous other in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Chair Shel­ley Scoullar said we need im­me­di­ate and united ac­tion to over­come the cri­sis.

“This rally is about find­ing so­lu­tions - it will not be an ex­er­cise in play­ing the ‘blame game’, but rather an op­por­tu­nity to work out what proac­tive steps we can take to­gether as a com­mu­nity in these dif­fi­cult times.”

Mrs Scoullar said she did not want to pre­empt de­ci­sions from the rally, but there have been sug­ges­tions that it should ap­point a del­e­ga­tion to take lo­cal con­cerns to Fed­eral Wa­ter Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud and NSW Wa­ter Min­is­ter Niall Blair.

“What­ever the out­come, we need a strong, united voice from our com­mu­nity to help en­sure our con­cerns are heard,” Mrs Scoullar said.

She said the drought sit­u­a­tion high­lights the need to re-as­sess the al­lo­ca­tion of wa­ter re­sources.

“We can ei­ther let things con­tinue on the way they are go­ing, which is gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be un­sat­is­fac­tory, or we can stand up and make our voices heard.

“In this re­gion we have one of the best grav­ity-fed ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems in the world which has re­cently had the ben­e­fit of sig­nif­i­cant up­grades. It should be used ef­fec­tively in times of drought to help our en­tire na­tion, not vir­tu­ally put in moth­balls.”

Mrs Scoullar said the present wa­ter shar­ing ar­range­ments are seen to be more un­suit­able to what is re­quired at the mo­ment when the full sit­u­a­tion is taken into ac­count, as fol­lows:

Dart­mouth Dam at ap­prox­i­mately 90 per­cent ca­pac­ity and Hume Dam ap­proach­ing 50 per­cent, ie. there is plenty of wa­ter in stor­age.

The SA Lower Lakes are at mi­nor flood level, filled largely with flows from the Up­per Mur­ray dams. The bar­rage gates have been opened to let wa­ter pour out to sea.

There is wa­ter from var­i­ous ac­counts that could be made avail­able to fin­ish crops and grow fod­der at a time when sup­plies are get­ting des­per­ately low.

“This is not about tak­ing wa­ter from en­vi­ron­men­tal pools and us­ing it for pro­duc­tion. It is about com­mon-sense de­ci­sion mak­ing to ef­fec­tively use our pre­cious wa­ter, and this is never more ev­i­dent than dur­ing times of drought.

“Wa­ter is not a ‘use only once’ com­mod­ity. Per­haps there are ways to get mul­ti­ple use so that a par­cel of wa­ter can be used for both the en­vi­ron­ment and grow­ing food and fod­der sup­plies. These are op­tions that need con­sid­er­a­tion.

“Some­how, we must de­liver a mes­sage on be­half of our com­mu­nity that the present sit­u­a­tion is not tol­er­a­ble. But we need ev­ery­one’s help to en­sure it is loud, strong and clear.

“So I urge ev­ery­one with an in­ter­est in our im­me­di­ate farm­ing fu­ture, as well as the longer term fu­ture, to at­tend our rally,” Mrs Scoullar said.

Speak­ers from a range of com­mu­nity and in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions will be in­vited to ad­dress the rally, as will lo­cal po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives. A fi­nal pro­gram will be de­ter­mined in com­ing days.

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