WA­TER WOR­RIES TO AIR

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE - By James Ben­nett

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.

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