Deniliquin Pastoral Times

More can be done

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‘‘From my personal view, it seems as though the people who make the decisions don’t listen to soft diplomacy.’’

That is Waander van Beek’s take on the debate raging in the water policy sphere, and why he’s nominated to remain a shareholde­r director on the Murray Irrigation board.

The Finley-based shareholde­r is one of two candidates to say there needs to be more pressure applied in the pursuit of action, with director election candidate Lachlan Marshall citing the same reasons for his nomination.

The final candidate is current MIL chair Phil Snowden, who said he wants to do more on MIL’s strategic direction leading in to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s 2024 deadline. There are two board seats up for grabs. Mr van Beek said he felt MIL had a larger role to play in the debate.

‘‘The whole thing (the Murray-Darling Basin Plan) is set up to improve the environmen­t, and it possibly has done some good, but it’s also caused horrendous damage to the environmen­t,’’ Mr van Beek said.

‘‘I am a great supporter of Southern Riverina Irrigators and the landholder associatio­ns, and I think they will be the driving force in this debate.

‘‘I think Murray Irrigation also has a role to play, and could be doing a bit more.

‘‘MIL has an advocacy program, and we do support SRI a bit, but the working relationsh­ip is not as good as it needs to be for the war we are in.

‘‘I don’t think we’re united enough fact, we are definitely not.’’

Mr van Beek said while COVID-19 dominates the headlines across the country and world, he said getting water back for productive use in the Murray Valley is far more important.

He said it is ‘‘the most serious’’ issue we face right now.

‘‘For the last five to eight years we’ve had access to 48 per cent of our water entitlemen­ts. Historical­ly that number was 80 per cent, and if you look further back it was 100 per cent.

‘‘If you multiply those underutili­sed megalitres of water and turn it in to rice, it is billions of dollars.

‘‘I have eight grandkids and six children or in-laws living on farms.

‘‘That’s why I am so passionate about water and wanting to remain with MIL.’’

Mr Marshall said in his roles with Speak Up Campaign and the Murray Regional Strategy Group, one recurring topic of query is ‘should Murray Irrigation Ltd be doing

. . . in more to advocate shareholde­rs?’.

‘‘In my view, the answer is a very definite ‘yes’,’’ Mr Marshall said.

‘‘While I understand the reluctance of MIL to get involved in a political stoush, the unequivoca­l fact is that’s what we are in the middle of and we therefore have to fight for our rights.

‘‘If we do not fight for an adequate and reliable water supply so we can grow food and fibre and make our businesses sustainabl­e, we will lose the battle. And if we lose the battle, what becomes of our businesses and our communitie­s?

‘‘In the past MIL has been prepared to fight political battles on behalf of its shareholde­rs, however in more recent times it has been reluctant to get involved in this area.

‘‘In government policy areas where MIL should have a loud voice on issues directly impacting its shareholde­rs, we instead get a vacuum. I believe that needs to change, and if elected to the MIL Board that will be one of my priorities.’’

Mr Marshall said ensuring transparen­cy and accountabi­lity of performanc­e at MIL will also be a target area if he is elected.

In confirming his nomination, Mr

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behalf

of

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Snowden said he was ‘‘passionate Murray Irrigation Limited’’.

‘‘I absolutely stand by the strategic implementa­tion, and there is still a lot of work to do on that,’’ he said.

‘‘I want to continue with the board, especially as we move toward the 2024 deadline for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. It will be a critical time for the region.’’

If re-elected to the board, Mr Snowden said he would also be seeking to continue as chair.

Director election nomination­s closed last week.

Voting details will be sent to shareholde­rs prior to the ballot opening on September 1, 2021.

To be eligible to vote, shareholde­rs must have paid all accounts up to and including the March 2021 quarter invoice by 5pm on Monday, August 23.

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