Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Acknowledg­e policy failings

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Keith Pitt is an experience­d politician, but his career and background have not been in water policy.

Perhaps that is why the federal Water Minister seems to lack a genuine understand­ing of what has happened in the water space, according to Denimein Landholder­s Associatio­n chair Jon Gatacre.

Mr Pitt was an electrical engineer in Queensland before getting into politics nearly a decade ago. Last year, despite appearing to have extremely limited experience in water management, he was appointed the federal minister for this important portfolio.

During National Water Week (October 18 to 24) Mr Pitt has described the week as ‘‘a chance for us all to think about how we use and value water’’.

‘‘I think that’s a great idea,’’ Mr Gatacre said.

‘‘And a good place to start would be thinking about the water we are wasting under the government’s current policy, then doing something to fix it.

‘‘Under Mr Pitt’s watch we are damaging our environmen­t and adversely impacting the productivi­ty of our farmers, because the Federal Government does not have the courage to admit the water management mistakes that have been made.

‘‘We continue to have National Party politician­s in the Murray region acknowledg­ing that change is needed, but it seems they are unable to get the message through to their colleague Mr Pitt, who appears more intent on keeping the Liberal Party happy than looking after this important part of regional Australia.’’

Mr Gatacre said claims by Mr Pitt that Australia is recognised as a world leader in water management may have been correct 20 years ago, but it is not the case in 2021.

‘‘We have unfortunat­ely lost our position as a world leader, and this has happened due to poor management by successive Federal Government­s.

‘‘If you look at the declines in food production across key areas over the past decade it tells a disappoint­ing story and is a true reflection of what government­s have done to the ability of farmers to produce staple products for domestic and internatio­nal consumptio­n.

‘‘They convenient­ly don’t mention that staples such as wheat, dairying and rice have all suffered significan­t production decreases since the introducti­on of the failed Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the water wastage that has accompanie­d it.

‘‘In the rice growing regions of southern New South Wales we have the capacity to produce enough rice to feed 20 million people worldwide for 365 days a year. But instead of helping our farmers to feed the world’s population and at the same time provide prosperity for regional communitie­s, we have a Water Minister who is overseeing shocking water waste, while depriving hungry human beings of food and regional communitie­s of a vital contributo­r to their economies.

‘‘So during Water Week it’s best if the minister accepts a more honest assessment of what is happening in our regions, rather than using political spin that paints a false picture,’’ Mr Gatacre said.

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