Rice mill clo­sure re­ac­tions

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - Front Page - By ZOE MCMAUGH

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.’’

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