There is enormous potential for growth in the NSW Murray region, but it is being stifled by poor government policy.
This strong message was delivered to NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro by Blighty dairy farmer Lachlan Marshall, during Mr Barilaro’s visit to Deniliquin last week.
Mr Marshall attended the Regional Stakeholder Group meeting with Mr Barilaro and Member for Murray Austin Evans, held last Wednesday afternoon.
‘‘Economically and environmentally we have huge potential, but poor government water policy has let us down. It has led to reduced business confidence and lost employment opportunities,’’ Mr Marshall told the Deputy Premier.
He explained that he was fourth generation dairy farmer and the family had moved to this region because they believed it had the water security that was needed to underpin and build a successful family business.
But unfortunately the community was now at ‘‘tipping point’’, brought on by a string of policy decisions, the latest being the NSW Government’s cautious approach to water allocations which has resulted in a zero allocation for the region so far this year.
Mr Marshall lamented that ‘‘our elected representatives simply don’t understand our situation’’.
‘‘With support from the New South Wales Government and better policy development the untapped potential of this region can be achieved. We can be productive, and this will be to everyone’s benefit,’’ he added.
Numerous regional stakeholders were represented at the meeting, including key personnel from: Edward River Council, Murray River Council, Berrigan Shire Council, Murrumbidgee Council, Murray Irrigation Limited, West Corrugan, Moira Private Irrigation, Southern Riverina Irrigators, Rice Growers Association, Yarkuwa Indigenous Knowledge Centre, Murray Valley Private Diverters, Speak Up and the dairy industry.
The regional leaders presented a united message to the Deputy Premier, echoing Mr Marshall’s comments that the region is ‘‘at or past tipping point’’ and cannot withstand any further negative impacts on its water resource, either directly or indirectly.
Mr Barilaro was presented with a list of outcomes which he was asked to address, being:
● Minister for Industry - Water, Niall Blair, reassess the conservative allocation policy which presently exists for NSW Murray.
● NSW revisit storage sharing arrangements of Murray storages.
● NSW Government undertakes a feasibility study to investigate creating a water fund, using $750 million of the $4.1 billion Snowy Hydro sale, to underpin NSW Murray allocations.
● The NSW Government ensure there is adequate resourcing and consultation around Water Resource Plans, Sustainable Diversion Limits, constraints management, and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan 450GL neutrality test.
● The NSW Government extend the timeframes around Water Resource Plans.
Mr Marshall said the Regional Strategy Group welcomed the opportunity to meet with Mr Barilaro and Mr Evans and looks forward to ongoing dialogue to help resolve issues which have developed over many years in the NSW Murray and need urgent attention.
■ Lachlan Marshall.