A list of empty prom­ises

Southern Riverina news - - BUILD BOARD -

A com­mu­nity cam­paign is fu­ri­ous about the lack of plan­ning with an is­sue of na­tional im­por­tance which could leave a trail of eco­nomic de­struc­tion.

In­vi­ta­tions went out Thurs­day last week from the Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment’s Mur­rayDar­ling Basin Wa­ter In­fras­truc­ture (MDBWI) Pro­gram, to par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­nity meet­ings be­gin­ning next week.

Speak Up chair Shel­ley Scoullar said there is ex­treme com­mu­nity frus­tra­tion at the lack of no­ti­fi­ca­tion and plan­ning for the meet­ings, which started yes­ter­day in Mil­dura and run un­til Novem­ber 6 across a num­ber of re­gional cen­tres in the South­ern Basin.

‘‘The Com­mon­wealth Gov­ern­ment has known about this since June, and the way it is be­ing or­gan­ised shows it is noth­ing more than an 11th hour, tick the box ‘con­sul­ta­tion’.

‘‘How can our Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment be so dis­or­gan­ised that no­ti­fi­ca­tion of meet­ings go out less than a week be­fore the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod be­gins?’’

The Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Min­is­te­rial Coun­cil (MinCo) agreed on June 8 to de­velop ad­di­tional so­cioe­co­nomic ‘neu­tral­ity’ cri­te­ria by the end of 2018, to ap­ply to pro­grams and pro­pos­als to re­cover an­other 450GL of wa­ter un­der the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan. The need for ef­fec­tive com­mu­nity and stake­holder com­mu­ni­ca­tion and con­sul­ta­tion was ac­knowl­edged.

‘‘The whole point of broad­en­ing the so­cioe­co­nomic cri­te­ria was to pick up the wider im­pacts to com­mu­ni­ties due to the re­cov­ery of an ad­di­tional 450GL. Com­ing out of the last MinCo meet­ing we were cer­tainly un­der the im­pres­sion that on-farm ef­fi­cien­cies for Vic­to­ria and NSW were off the ta­ble, pro­duc­tive wa­ter was safe and the Com­mon­wealth was look­ing for ur­ban and in­dus­try wa­ter to make up the gaps.

‘‘From the brief look I have had of the ad­di­tional cri­te­ria they still only fo­cus on in­di­vid­ual par­tic­i­pa­tion and not the broader im­pacts and or the mar­ket im­pacts through the re­duc­tion to the pro­duc­tive pool.’’

Mrs Scoullar com­mended the NSW and Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ments for their much broader cri­te­ria, how­ever she is con­cerned the Com­mon­wealth’s ad­di­tional cri­te­ria fails to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties from on-farm projects out­side their val­ley.

‘‘For ex­am­ple, there is noth­ing cur­rently in place to pre­vent farm­ers in South Aus­tralia from par­tic­i­pat­ing in a project in SA and then re­plac­ing the en­ti­tle­ments they re­turned to the Com­mon­wealth from the up­stream com­mu­ni­ties. This has the po­ten­tial for fur­ther sig­nif­i­cant detri­men­tal eco­nomic im­pact in re­gions like the NSW Mur­ray. We know that this has al­ready hap­pened, in the Mur­ray, Vic­to­rian and Goul­burn sys­tems,’’ she said.

Adding to her long list of frus­tra­tions at the lack of trans­parency and fail­ure to ad­e­quately or­gan­ise con­sul­ta­tion, for which venues had not been pub­licly an­nounced, was the fact the Fed­eral Minister David Lit­tleproud him­self said ‘‘we’ve got one chance to get this right’’.

‘‘On top of all this, noone from gov­ern­ment has even con­sid­ered the third party im­pacts on try­ing to de­liver this ad­di­tional 450GL. Is­sues around how the vol­umes will be de­liv­ered have not even been re­solved.

‘‘This whole process seems like a set up to achieve po­lit­i­cal gain, again at the ex­pense of our com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘Giv­ing peo­ple less than a week’s no­tice is to­tally un­ac­cept­able.

‘‘Those who have man­aged to get their hands on some wa­ter will be flat out with hay or pre­par­ing for har­vest. Those who have a small amount of wa­ter for sum­mer crop­ping will be pre­par­ing for that.’’

Mrs Scoullar urged ev­ery­one to reg­is­ter to at­tend one of the con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings. The clos­est is in Deni on Novem­ber 2. Reg­is­ter at mdb­wip.con­sul­ta­tion@seftons.com.au.

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