Rice mill closure reactions
Gulpa Sawmill owner Ben Danckert is calling on the NSW Government to help provide job security for Deniliquin and district residents by opening the Murray Valley National Parks to timber harvesting.
Mr Danckert, who is also chair of The Nationals Red Gum branch, said timber is one industry that is primed and ready to take on displaced Deniliquin Rice Mill workers as reduced hours and shut downs take place over the next few months.
SunRice announced a stage ‘‘reconfiguration’’ on Thursday, with the loss of about 100 mill jobs, mostly from Deniliquin where the shut down of one of two mills is scheduled to take place from April.
The decision follows the impact of zero water allocation and drought on ricegrowers, with the company predicting this season will deliver the second smallest crop result in 15 years and also the second smallest since the rice mill opened 40 years ago.
Mr Danckert said he could help reduce the impact on the mill workers and the wider communities by employing 30 rice mill workers in full time work immediately and more after the first 12 months ‘‘if we are given an opportunity’’.
Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan is also attempting to ease the transition for local mill workers, seeking employment with the developers of two local solar farms.
Mr Danckert said the community needs to start seeing some support from governments, not more restrictions like the decision to convert local forests to a National Park in 2010 and the current impact water sharing rules are having on availability for food and fibre production.
‘‘The timber industry is ready to go — just as quickly as it was shut down it can be reopened.
‘‘It could give Deni a bit of hope to ride out the drought.
‘‘The demand for red gum has never changed, just our access to the resource.
‘‘We could go back to business and even export high value red gum for furniture overseas if we are given the opportunity.
‘‘We could sell a local resource elsewhere and bring some money into Deniliquin through local employment.’’
Cr Brennan said jobs could also be available locally with the pending developments of the Tarleigh Park and Currawarra solar farms near Deniliquin.
He said the developers, RES Australia, have an expected requirement for 200 workers.
‘‘It’s a short-term fix over two years but hopefully by then mother nature might give some rain relief or operations might be fixed up within the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,’’ Cr Brennan said.
‘‘We have been through this all before, but the unfortunate thing is the Basin Plan was meant to protect the community and the environment, and we have not got that balance right.
‘‘Federal Water Minister David Littleproud needs to get everyone together and say ‘‘the plan is not working as it should be’’. We need to get balance back into the equation.
‘‘Even in a flood year, in 2016, we did not get a full allocation.
‘‘There are minor flood levels in the Lower Lakes — how can that be without rainfall? It means they are pushing too much water down.
‘‘I am told there is an eight year cycle before you feel the full impact of water leaving this region — if we’re having this with SunRice now, what are we going to have in 2023?
‘‘The two heads of the Murray Darling Basin Authority, Phillip Glyde and Neil Andrew should be held accountable, they are operating the plan and are not listening to the communities.’’