WATER WORRIES TO AIR
The Federal Government minister with the most influence on decisions that affect the future of this region will be in Finley and Berrigan this week.
Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud will make his first official visit to the district on tomorrow.
Water availability and the Murray Darling Basin Plan will undoubtedly dominate discussions during Mr Littleproud’s visit, which will include a guided tour of irrigation infrastructure by Murray Irrigation Limited and a meeting with the Regional Strategy Group consisting of local government, irrigators, other producers and other community leaders.
Mr Littleproud will start his journey at the Mulwala Canal Offtake on Thursday morning, before visiting The Drop hydroelectric power station near Berrigan and the recently upgraded Finley Town Supply regulator.
Murray Irrigation CEO Michael Renehan and Chairman Phil Snowden will join Mr Littleproud on part of the tour, along with key technical staff.
Mr Renehan said the successful completion of the company’s Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) will be a focus of the minister’s visit.
‘‘This is an excellent opportunity to show the minister the Commonwealth’s $240 million investment in the Mulwala Canal and the role it plays in supplying our customers,’’ he said.
‘‘We will have senior operations managers and engineers on hand to explain the significance of each element of the investment.
‘‘The Mulwala Canal is the backbone of our water delivery system and its recent upgrades provide greater control and will extend the life of this significant piece of infrastructure.’’
Local government representatives, including from Berrigan Shire, Murrumbidgee Council and Edward River, will meet with other organisations that have come together from the Murray Valley region to work as a collective, calling themselves the Murray Regional Strategy Group.
Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins said he’ll be bringing up a range of issues regarding water, emphasing that the Berrigan Shire community had ‘‘had enough and can’t cope any longer.’’
‘‘The key issues are really about (how) we don’t support the 450 Gl upwater proposal.
‘‘The community has experienced enough pain and can’t take anymore.
‘‘Water reliability has gone from roughly 80 per cent to 60 per cent which means on average general security water holder(s) only have access to water about every three years and that’s not sustainable for any industry – we’re at a tipping point.
‘‘It doesn’t help rice growers who have international supply contracts to yield every three years, and that goes for other crops.
‘‘We’ll be bringing up Finley and Berrigan as two regions that have been severely affected from the water issues and there’s a flow on effect into the community; there’s a loss of jobs, skills and wealth,’’ Mr Perkins said.
Speak Up Campaign spokesperson Shelley Scoullar will be a part of a delegation to meet with the federal water minister to be hosted by Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan.
Mrs Scoullar said she will be honest with the minister and will directly point out the issues local farmers are experiencing during the drought.
‘‘If, given the opportunity, Speak Up will call a spade a spade, which they now have a reputation of doing.
‘‘We will be making it very clear that our communities are past tipping point, that we do not support the recovery of an additional 450 Gl.
‘‘We were promised that after the 2750 Gl was recovered the additional 450 Gl would only be recovered if it could be done without adverse impacts to community wellbeing and production. . . now the Federal Government are changing the rules.
‘‘I, like all Australian taxpayers, should be very frustrated that our hard-earned taxes, $13 billion worth, are being used to dismantle our forefathers’ ingenuity to drought-proof the country, and now it looks as is more taxpayers’ money is going to be spent on ‘making farmers more resilient and efficient’.
‘‘This region from the onset have provided sensible options to achieve environmental outcomes and also protect communities, and we will continue to bring them to the ministers’ attention.
‘‘Unless there are some changes to the Basin Plan the Nationals are very likely to lose the seat of Murray at the next election.
‘‘We are not happy with how the Basin Plan is impacting our region and the water minister is ignoring us.
‘‘The previous water minister got it, he took the time to understand that the water could not be delivered without significant impacts.
‘‘We hope that the current minister will take the time and try and understand the big picture.’’
Mr Littleproud will also meet with members of the general public at a ‘Meet and Mingle’ evening at the Deniliquin Golf Club on Thursday night, hosted by the Deniliquin branch of The Nationals.