Deputy will fight

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

It is time for NSW to ‘‘fight for our fair share’’ in wa­ter pol­icy, ac­cord­ing to NSW Deputy Premier John Bar­i­laro.

Af­ter meet­ing with district ir­ri­ga­tors and land­hold­ers, busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers in De­niliquin last week, the leader of The Na­tion­als said he is now more pre­pared to chal­lenge the in­for­ma­tion fed to Par­lia­ment by bu­reau­crats and ad­vi­sors.

Mr Bar­i­laro said he left the re­gion with a greater un­der­stand­ing of the im­pact the drought and flawed wa­ter pol­icy is hav­ing on small busi­ness, and the frus­tra­tions about wa­ter avail­abil­ity to grow food and fi­bre.

While ad­mit­ting he is no wa­ter ex­pert, he said he wanted to take away as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble to lobby gov­ern­ment.

‘‘Most min­is­ters in cab­i­net rely on ad­vice of pub­lic ser­vice bu­reau­crats, and we also rely on the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for some of these cat­e­gories,’’ Mr Bar­i­laro said.

‘‘But you’re the ex­perts, you’ve lived it. You live in this re­gion with many of you be­ing sec­ond, third and fourth gen­er­a­tion farm­ers and ir­ri­ga­tors.

‘‘You know what it looks like and I’m here to lis­ten and hear what you have to say, then I can chal­lenge the in­for­ma­tion that I re­ceive (from bu­reau­crats and min­is­ters).’’

Mr Bar­i­laro said he is hope­ful a change of gov­ern­ment in South Aus­tralia ear­lier this year could prove to be a step for­ward in mak­ing more wa­ter avail­able to NSW.

‘‘Now is prob­a­bly the best time to have a proper con­ver­sa­tion (with South Aus­tralia) and I’m pre­pared to do that,’’ he said.

‘‘What you’re all ask­ing for you’re en­ti­tled to, and that’s the part that I don’t un­der­stand. Why have we got­ten to this point? It angers me.

‘‘What I’m promis­ing you is to lis­ten, take it away and then come back and face you again in the very near fu­ture and say ‘this is what I’ve been able to achieve, or what I think we can achieve’.’’

Mr Bar­i­laro spent two days in the De­niliquin district last week, flanked by lo­cal Mem­ber for Mur­ray Austin Evans.

They pair met with the Re­gional Stake­holder Group and the Na­tion­als Red Gum Branch on Wed­nes­day evening.

Also the Min­is­ter for Small Busi­ness, Mr Bar­i­laro was the guest of hon­our at a busi­ness break­fast in De­niliquin on Thurs­day morn­ing, be­fore he and Mr Evans hosted a pub­lic wa­ter meet­ing.

Hav­ing at­tended the Re­gional Stake- holder Group meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, Ber­ri­gan Shire Mayor Matt Han­nan and Mur­rumbidgee Coun­cil Mayor Ruth McRae both said they have greater con­fi­dence in Mr Bar­i­laro to af­fect change.

Cr Han­nan said while the Deputy Premier ‘‘didn’t have all the an­swers’’ he did seem more will­ing than some other politi­cians to get to the bot­tom of the is­sues.

‘‘You have to take things on face value and when the so­lu­tions are put up that's when he can go to the gov­ern­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘There were many peo­ple at the meet­ing who have been deal­ing with this is­sue for a long time and there's been lots of meet­ings.

‘‘I won't speak for oth­ers, but from my point of view it (Bar­i­laro’s re­sponse to the is­sues) seemed pretty gen­uine.

‘‘We need rep­re­sen­ta­tion from our politi­cians and hope­fully he’ll be able to as­sist us.’’

Cr McRae said it’s now up to the lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tive bod­ies to come up with some tan­gi­ble so­lu­tions for Mr Bar­i­laro and his gov­ern­ment to en­act.

‘‘The re­ally pos­i­tive thing about the fo­rum is that it brought to­gether in­ter­ested wa­ter bod­ies, and they’re try­ing to get the col­lec­tive voice at the table.

‘‘What has prob­a­bly hin­dered get­ting any real progress on wa­ter is­sues there are so many bod­ies that come to the table, so it was a real ben­e­fit of this group it's get­ting all rel­e­vant par­ties and dis­cussing what needs to be done.

‘‘For the time I was in the room the deputy prime min­is­ter gave us a very fair hear­ing.

‘‘I think if we can de­fine and ar­tic­u­late the keys is­sues and work with the gov­ern­ment, then we can get that cred­i­ble voice to in­ter­act with the peo­ple who make the de­ci­sion we will get some good out­comes.

‘‘It's not go­ing to hap­pen overnight; it's a work­ing progress and we have to be pa­tient. We need to have the mind­set we want a res­o­lu­tion to these is­sues, so when you think of that mind­set you have to be con­fi­dent and fu­tur­is­tic.’’

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