‘Moral ur­gency’

Fail­ure to fix zero al­lo­ca­tion sit­u­a­tion has cre­ated a . . .

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - NEWS -

‘‘It has now be­come a moral ur­gency to deal with the is­sues of a zero wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion.’’

That is the emo­tion-charged view of lo­cal land­holder, busi­ness owner and com­mu­nity and agri­cul­tural ad­vo­cate Vicki Meyer, par­tic­u­larly as the com­mu­nity braces for yet an­other wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion an­nounce­ment next week which pro­vides no wa­ter for food and fi­bre pro­duc­tion in the NSW Mur­ray Val­ley.

The Speak Up Cam­paign vice chair said it’s more than farm­ers who are feel­ing the im­pacts of the en­dur­ing zero per cent al­lo­ca­tion in this im­por­tant food bowl re­gion.

She said it’s al­ready cost this com­mu­nity in the job losses that have started to roll out as a re­sult of the staged shut down of the De­niliquin Rice Mill over the next six months — a di­rect re­sult of no wa­ter be­ing avail­able to grow rice.

Ms Meyer says ev­ery dol­lar earned in the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try can ben­e­fit eight dif­fer­ent lo­cal busi­nesses, and the eco­nomic losses this com­mu­nity is fac­ing are very real.

She has this week taken aim at the de­ci­sion mak­ers who she says seem to have for­got­ten about the best in­ter­ests of com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘This con­tin­ued zero per cent of gen­eral se­cu­rity is ac­tu­ally hurt­ing us — anger we can deal with, but hurt is much harder,’’ said Ms Meyer, who is CEO of De­niliquin Freighters.

‘‘The real im­pact is that we (Freighters) are see­ing no growth — we are in sur­vival mode.

‘‘We’ll need to look at our spon­sor­ship very closely, and right now profit is a his­tor­i­cal word. Gen­er­ally speak­ing wages haven’t gone any­where and busi­nesses are cut­ting the cloth to suit the crop, lit­er­ally, and ev­ery­one has to fall in line. That means a down­turn in the econ­omy.

‘‘We have no abil­ity to trans­form wa­ter into dol­lars for our lo­cal re­tail­ers, we can’t con­vert wa­ter into freight, or into tonnes of rice to keep our in­dus­try go­ing.

‘‘They call it a gen­eral se­cu­rity en­ti­tle­ment, but we don’t have any en­ti­tle­ment at all. But who is fight­ing for us?

‘‘When will it re­turn to think­ing about what is in the best in­ter­est of com­mu­ni­ties?

‘‘The only thing we can do is stay united and fight against these zero al­lo­ca­tions — to fight against hav­ing as­sets we can­not use.’’

Ms Meyer said while it is not un­prece­dented for this dis­trict to be on a zero per cent gen­eral se­cu­rity al­lo­ca­tion, it is un­prece­dented to be in this sit­u­a­tion when wa­ter is freely flow­ing through the sys­tem and out to sea at its end.

She said it’s a very real ex­am­ple of how wa­ter pol­icy — par­tic­u­larly the Wa­ter Act 2007 which was the guide­line for the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan — and the peo­ple who im­ple­ment it care more about en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes than peo­ple who live in the basin.

She said some­thing has to change ‘‘and change very quickly, be­cause we need more than hope to fix this’’.

‘‘What has made this zero per cent un­prece­dented is that there is wa­ter in the dams, and we’re see­ing an un­prece­dented amount of en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter — which they call op­er­a­tional wa­ter — through our forests.

‘‘Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion’s li­cence is 800,000 me­gal­itres and the five per cent ef­fi­ciency we re­ceived is about 40,000 me­gal­itres of that.

‘‘Through the en­tire rest of the sys­tem from the Hume Dame, they (gov­ern­ments and wa­ter au­thor­i­ties) could not even give us one per cent, or 8000 me­gal­itres, yet they are let­ting in ex­cess of that amount go through to the end of the sys­tem and out the Mur­ray mouth.

‘‘The Mur­ray Val­ley should have had an off-al­lo­ca­tion from the rain event in Wan­garatta too, so we have to is­sue a ‘please ex­plain’ to the au­thor­i­ties and to the New South Wales and Fed­eral Gov­ern­ments.

‘‘We’ve gone to the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity to ask why we’re still on zero per cent, and we’ve been told we have to speak to the New South Wales Gov­ern­ment be­cause they have no idea.

‘‘We now have to look at the le­git­i­macy of those who are sup­posed to be look­ing af­ter us — the wa­ter au­thor­i­ties and our gov­ern­ments.’’

Fed­eral Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley has also taken aim on the is­sue, say­ing that a re­view of the ex­ist­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter­ing strat­egy be­comes yet an­other crit­i­cal step to en­sure the Basin Plan can ‘‘be­come ‘work­able’ in my com­mu­ni­ties’’.

‘‘What is needed is stronger, more mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment with com­mu­ni­ties, with a fo­cus on what the Plan should look like, and to re­flect on how it might be changed to im­prove lo­cal im­pacts,’’ she said.

‘‘I have now writ­ten to the Prime Min­is­ter re­quest­ing a so­cial and eco­nomic as­sess­ment of the state of the South­ern Basin, so we can make our case to all gov­ern­ments that on­go­ing low gen­eral se­cu­rity al­lo­ca­tions are a bru­tal and un­in­tended con­se­quence of the Basin Plan.

‘‘We des­per­ately need an au­dit of the use of en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter; one which is sub­ject to an in­de­pen­dent as­sess­ment by the Com­mon­wealth Au­di­tor Gen­eral.

‘‘A change to rules on how wa­ter is man­aged within and be­tween val­leys, above and be­low the Barmah Choke, and be­tween the en­vi­ron­ment and op­er­a­tional use is also re­quired.’’

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