MEET­ING QUES­TIONED

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE - By James Ben­nett

Ber­ri­gan Shire gen­eral man­ager Rowan Perkins doesn’t be­lieve ‘‘much was achieved’’ af­ter a Re­gional Strate­gic Group meet­ing with Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources David Lit­tleproud last week.

Mr Perkins rep­re­sented the Ber­ri­gan Shire as part of a united voice call­ing on more ac­tion to be taken to ad­dress the re­gion’s wa­ter is­sues in De­niliquin on Thurs­day.

Other groups in­cluded in the meet­ing were Speak Up for Wa­ter, South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors, Rice­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Mur­ray Val­ley Pri­vate Divert­ers, Dairy Aus­tralia and lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

Mr Perkins be­lieved noth­ing was promised at the meet­ing and has come away with lit­tle con­fi­dence the re­gion would see much res­o­lu­tion.

‘‘A clear mes­sage was sent say­ing these com­mu­ni­ties can’t bare any more wa­ter re­moval.

‘‘We sup­port the states’ — both NSW and Vic­to­ria — po­si­tion of the neu­tral­ity test.

‘‘We’re sick of be­ing col­lat­eral dam­age for po­lit­i­cal drought and po­lit­i­cal floods.

‘‘Ex­ist­ing re­li­a­bil­ity of ir­ri­gation wa­ter is around 50 per cent, no in­dus­try can sus­tained it­self with that re­li­a­bil­ity.

‘‘We’re over pol­i­tics and just want them to gov­ern, I’m not con­fi­dent we’ll see change and we’ve never once been able to get any hange from the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin As­so­ci­a­tion,’’ Mr Perkins said.

Mr Lit­tleproud is call­ing on the states to have a ma­ture dis­cus­sion on the con­tro­ver­sial 450 Gl up­wa­ter pro­posal.

He told the South­ern Rive­rina News the 450 Gl re­mained a con­cern and at a Mur­rayDar­ling Basin Min­is­te­rial Coun­cil (MinCo) meet­ing in De­cem­ber there would be dis­cus­sion to en­sure col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Speak Up spokesper­son Shel­ley Scoullar said Mr Lit­tleproud sym­pa­thised with the group as his elec­torate (Mara­noa) had also been im­pacted by the plan.

‘‘He spoke hon­estly that it’s a po­lit­i­cal chal­lenge mov­ing for­ward but we spoke re­ally frankly to him and spoke about the real is­sues hap­pen­ing in our com­mu­nity, the se­vere im­pacts and the un­cer­tainty of our fu­ture.

‘‘We still have a big fight on our hands, my feel­ing is, if other peo­ple within par­lia­ment were able to move in our di­rec­tion then cer­tainly David would sup­port that... it’s not as if he’s against sen­si­ble so­lu­tions it’s just he needs more sup­port from other mem­bers of par­lia­ment.’’

‘‘Two years ago we ex­pe­ri­enced a ma­jor flood and we were on 50 per cent wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion, now we have wa­ter in the damns and we’re on zero per cent al­lo­ca­tion and that is scary for our fu­ture,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

Mr Lit­tleproud said it was im­por­tant the orig­i­nal plan for the 450 Gl was ad­hered to, which had a re­quire­ment for a neu­tral pos­i­tive out­come for ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘The only piece in the 450 that gives me any com­fort is that there was safe guards put in place on the so­cial and eco­nomic neu­tral­ity test and that’s im­por­tant we get that right and I in­tend to work through with the states to get that right.

‘‘That’s why I’ve taken the pol­i­tics out of this and not call­ing any­one names be­cause we won’t get good out­comes for these Aus­tralians if we don’t have some ma­tu­rity and lead­er­ship.

‘‘NSW and Vic­to­ria have put out a frame­work around the neu­tral­ity test and ob­vi­ously that’s for dis­cus­sion.

‘‘There will be con­sul­ta­tion. . . with com- mu­ni­ties around that and what it looks like and it’s im­por­tant we do that.

‘‘At the min­is­te­rial coun­cil in De­cem­ber we’re go­ing to have to sit down and have that con­ver­sa­tion with the states in a ma­ture way.

‘‘With all of us lead­ing and un­der­stand­ing im­pacts not just in our own states but right across the basin in the de­ci­sions we make.

‘‘That’s the im­por­tant thing and at the last min­is­te­rial coun­cil we over achieved that. No one was parochial with not un­der­stand­ing the im­pact on each’s other state and basin,’’ Mr Lit­tleproud said.

The South­ern Rive­rina News asked when NSW would re­ceive a wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion.

Mr Lit­tleproud said it would be a mat­ter for the state gov­ern­ment to de­cide.

‘‘The NSW gov­ern­ment makes those de­ter­mi­na­tions not the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and that’s for them to make those an­nounce­ments and not for me.

‘‘I don’t have a lot of power in all this. . . the re­al­ity is NSW will make those de­ter­mi­na­tions so will Vic­to­ria.’’

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