Calls for Basin meeting in Deni
Calls are mounting for the Productivity Commission to host a hearing on its Basin Plan report in Deniliquin.
The commission has released its schedule of hearings, with none to be held in southern NSW, despite this area being one of the most severely impacted by the plan.
The Speak Up Campaign has joined with other organisations, including the Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation of Councils, in asking the commission to add a Deniliquin hearing to its schedule.
It has suggested this could be held just before or after a Shepparton hearing, which is listed for Wednesday, October 17. No other hearings are proposed for that week.
Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said the commission had identified various issues with the Basin Plan which particularly impact on the NSW Murray.
“Under these circumstances, it would seem reasonable for a hearing to be held in Deniliquin so our local organisations, indus- tries, businesses and community members have an opportunity to express their views.
“It does not seem reasonable to have hearings in Sydney and Canberra, yet not at the heart of the region suffering most under the plan,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She added Speak Up was heartened by the concerns the commission has raised in its Basin Plan report, including its statement that implementation timelines are unrealistic and institutional and governance arrangements are deficient.
Associate Commissioner for Water John Madden stated when releasing the draft report: “The current institutional arrangements for implementing the Plan do not give the Commission confidence that the significant risks ahead will be well managed. Basin Governments need to collectively take charge and deliver on implementation of the Plan for the benefit of the Basin as a whole, not just to their own patch. This needs to be accompanied by reform of the Murray- Darling Basin Authority to create a separate Basin Plan Regulator.”
Mrs Scoullar said it has become obvious that South Australia, in particular, is not prepared to work with other states on delivering a balanced Basin Plan, and the NSW Murray is suffering because of this unfortunate attitude.
Speak Up has written to the commission asking for a hearing to be held in Deniliquin, so it can get a better understanding of how the Plan is impacting on this community.
“We have pointed out that under the Basin Plan there have been $21 million a year in lost salaries across our region.
“The MDBA’s own data shows decreases in population of up to 45.6 per cent in local communities. This is unacceptable and a more adaptive and flexible approach is needed to the Basin Plan to address it.
“The present drought is also highlighting deficiencies in the plan and the need for change to protect our communities. This protection was promised by successive governments but is not being delivered. That must change, and the Productivity Commission is a good conduit to developing changing attitudes,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She added Speak Up is hoping the commission’s report has more effect than the 2015 Senate Inquiry into the Basin Plan, which identified numerous areas that required attention and made 31 recommendations to government.
“Unfortunately, governments have since found it easier to ignore the recommendations than to take decisive action that protects our communities. They’re more content to have broken promises, as it would appear this is an easier political solution.
“We do not want the same thing to happen with the Productivity Commission report, so it is vital the commission gets to the ‘coal face’ of the problem and continues to provide governments with a true indication of the mess that is being played out in our communities from the Basin Plan,” Mrs Scoullar said.