We can be part of the so­lu­tion

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE -

NSW Mur­ray Val­ley farm­ers want a start­ing gen­eral se­cu­rity ir­ri­ga­tion al­lo­ca­tion by the end of the week and have called on newly in­stalled Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son to visit the area as soon as pos­si­ble.

They were two of the mo­tions put to Mon­day’s wa­ter cri­sis rally in De­niliquin, or­gan­ised by Speak Up Cam­paign and sup­ported unan­i­mously by the more than 550 strong crowd.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment, com­mu­nity and farm­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from through­out the re­gion at­tended the rally, and Ber­ri­gan Shire Council joined other re­gional or­gan­i­sa­tions in sign­ing an ‘Open Let­ter’ high­light­ing the re­gion’s plight and how it can become part of the drought so­lu­tion, in­stead of being part of the prob­lem.

The crowd filled the De­niliquin RSL Club’s Dun­lop Room in such great num­bers many were forced to stand for the en­tirety of the two-hour meet­ing.

Some bran­dished signs read­ing ‘ No wa­ter! No Food! No com­mu­nity!’ and ‘No wa­ter, no fu­ture’, and many donned the Speak Up t-shirt which reads ‘It’s all about our com­mu­ni­ties’.

They were there to send a clear mes­sage to wa­ter au­thor­i­ties and politi­cians — we need wa­ter to grow food and fod­der and we need it now.

Rally par­tic­i­pants unan­i­mously sup­ported calls for the Prime Min­is­ter to im­me­di­ately place a visit to the De­niliquin district at the top of his pri­or­ity list to dis­cuss op­tions with farm­ers and en­dorsed the open let­ter to all Aus­tralians call­ing on them to ‘‘urge politi­cians along with reg­u­la­tory bod­ies to in­ves­ti­gate every av­enue to as­sist with drought re­lief’’.

Speak Up Cam­paign chair Shelley Scoullar said Mon­day’s meet­ing was called to ad­dress, specif­i­cally, the fact the NSW Mur­ray Val­ley re­mains on zero per cent al­lo­ca­tion de­spite plenty of wa­ter being in the two ma­jor stor­age dams.

Not only is the zero al­lo­ca­tion jeop­ar­dis­ing lo­cal win­ter crops and fod­der pro­duc­tion, it im­pacts on re­gional economies and those com­mu­ni­ties fac­ing more se­vere drought con­di­tions and who are in des­per­ate need of fod­der to keep live­stock alive.

‘‘You are here to­day because you un­der­stand the value of wa­ter to our com­mu­ni­ties,’’ Mrs Scoullar told the rally.

‘‘You un­der­stand that for our com­mu­ni­ties to sur­vive and thrive wa­ter needs to flow onto our fer­tile soils so that our farm­ers can do what they ex­cel at, pro­duc­ing food and fi­bre.

‘‘You are here to­day because you be­lieve in com­mon sense and that it will pre­vail, because you will not give up our com­mu­ni­ties; com­mu­ni­ties who rely on the re­gion’s farm­ers to be pro­duc­tive so that you can em­ploy an ap­pren­tice, take care of our fi­nances, write us a new loan, ed­u­cate our chil­dren, the list goes on.

‘‘Speak Up has been in­un­dated with peo­ple stressed about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion and wor­ried about the fu­ture. No more so than those con­cerned about the fu­ture for the next gen­er­a­tion with­out ac­cess to re­li­able and af­ford­able wa­ter.

‘‘Some will say that we only have our­selves to blame for sell­ing en­ti­tle­ments or par­tic­i­pat­ing in ef­fi­ciency pro­grams. That ar­gu­ment does not cut it for Speak Up. Com­ing out of the Mil­len­nium drought some had no other op­tion so that they could hang onto their fam­ily farm, their dream and their way of life.

‘‘The true cost of the Basin Plan is now play­ing out, and those who want a fu­ture in ir­ri­gated agri­cul­ture are pay­ing the ul­ti­mate price. The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is look­ing to be the new norm.’’

Mrs Scoullar said ir­ri­ga­tors in the NSW Mur­ray are ‘‘to­tally out played by en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and South Aus­tralia who have very strate­gi­cally en­sured that the wider vot­ing pub­lic view us as wa­ter thieves’’.

‘‘Com­pared (to them) we are out re­sourced and have not played the po­lit­i­cal game well,’’ she said.

‘‘I have seen first hand that the Mur­ray Val­ley has become the sac­ri­fi­cial lamb in wa­ter re­form.

‘‘This has taken place over a pe­riod of time, whether it be through Wa­ter Shar­ing Plans, lack of trans­parency from NSW De­part­ments and lack of un­der­stand­ing from our peak rep­re­sen­ta­tive ir­ri­ga­tion or­gan­i­sa­tions of the risks to Mur­ray re­sources, to name a few.’’

Speak­ing to the mo­tion de­mand­ing an early wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion, Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion CEO Michael Rene­han said even the small­est al­lo­ca­tion would trig­ger ef­fi­ciency wa­ter the com­pany could de­liver to ir­ri­ga­tors in con­junc­tion with a bor­row from en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter re­serves.

‘‘Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion would get its full 50 per cent con­veyance li­cence with an open­ing al­lo­ca­tion, and we could then start to de­liver car­ry­over and pur­chased wa­ter,’’ Mr Rene­han said.

‘‘We also have ef­fi­ciency wa­ter that we can get to farms straight away, even if we only got one per cent (al­lo­ca­tion).

‘‘The more the bet­ter but our aim is to get one per cent, which could put 140 gi­gal­itres into our sys­tem.’’

There in sup­port of the rally’s aims, and asked to cham­pion the mo­tions on be­half of those in the room, were Fed­eral Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley and NSW Mem­ber for Mur­ray Austin Evans.

Ms Ley, who in­di­cated she had spo­ken with the new PM be­fore the meet­ing, said the con­cept of a ‘bor­row’ is the op­tion she has been cham­pi­oning in Par­lia­ment and the pub­lic sphere.

Mr Evans said the great­est hope of get­ting an al­lo­ca­tion now is to sus­pend the wa­ter shar­ing plans and make the 141GL of wa­ter being held for the state split to be made avail­able to farm­ers.

He said in the longer term the make-up of the split of that wa­ter to Vic­to­ria, NSW and South Aus­tralia needs to be ad­dressed.

Ms Ley, Mr Evans and Mrs Scoullar made up a panel of nine to ad­dress the rally, with oth­ers in­clud­ing grower Chris Brooks, South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors chair Gabrielle Cou­p­land, Ed­ward River Council Mayor Norm Bren­nan, Rice­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion of Aus­tralia pres­i­dent Jeremy Mor­ton, Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Lim­ited chair Phil Snow­den and Mur­ray Val­ley Pri­vate Divert­ers chair An­drew Hicks.

In a show of unity, all these or­gan­i­sa­tions, plus Ber­ri­gan Shire Council, signed the Open Let­ter.

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