Meet­ings re­buke

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE - By Ge­off Adams

The Fed­eral Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources was given strong mes­sages that ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties can­not ab­sorb any more ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter losses, at a se­ries of hastily ar­ranged con­sul­ta­tion meet­ings around the re­gion last week.

The depart­ment has also earned it­self a re­buke from its own min­is­ter for not giv­ing com­mu­ni­ties enough no­tice of the meet­ings.

Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud said some com­mu­ni­ties vis­ited dur­ing the ini­tial stage of Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan con­sul­ta­tions and had com­plained of short no­tice, not be­ing in­formed or the ad­dress for the venue not be­ing pub­lished on the web.

Mr Lit­tleproud said this was dis­ap­point­ing and he had or­dered the depart­ment to go back again where com­mu­ni­ties felt they had not been heard.

‘‘I’m not sur­prised com­plaints were re­ceived about this,’’ Mr Lit­tleproud said.

‘‘Get­ting this neu­tral­ity test right is vi­tal to the basin plan. We need to be dead sure there are no neg­a­tive im­pacts from wa­ter re­cov­ery.’’

Most farm­ers at­tend­ing a con­sul­ta­tion meeting in Shep­par­ton last week ar­gued the loss of more wa­ter un­der the basin plan could not be tol­er­ated and that the trans­fer of an ad­di­tional 450 Gl would cause harm. Farm­ers at­tend­ing the meet­ings have been alarmed that it ap­pears the ex­tra 450 Gl was likely to be for­feited.

VFF Wa­ter Coun­cil pres­i­dent Richard An­der­son said the large turnout of farm­ers, de­spite in some cases get­ting only a few days’ no­tice, demon­strated the high level of con­cern about the wa­ter re­cov­ery pro­posal.

‘‘We have been telling the Com­mon­wealth for many years now that re­duc­ing the con­sump­tive pool is dam­ag­ing our com­mu­ni­ties,’’ Mr An­der­son said.

‘‘Even data pub­lished by the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity shows over 5000 jobs have been lost in Vic­to­ria alone.

‘‘Our mes­sages are clear; get­ting the ex­tra 450 Gl through on-farm ef­fi­ciency mea­sures will re­duce the con­sump­tive pool, drive up the price of wa­ter and flood com­mu­ni­ties when they at­tempt to de­liver it.

‘‘We be­lieve 1 Gl for on­farm projects any­where in the south­ern basin would hurt com­mu­ni­ties, let alone 400 Gl.’’

Over­whelm­ingly, farm­ers em­pha­sised that par­tic­i­pat­ing in pre­vi­ous on­farm projects re­quir­ing trans­fer of wa­ter to the Com­mon­wealth had hurt their busi­ness.

They in­di­cated they were now more re­liant on tem­po­rary wa­ter.

‘‘Rather than try­ing to as­sess the com­mu­nity and cu­mu­la­tive im­pact of wa­ter re­cov­ery project by project, the whole 450 Gl needs to be sub­jected to a test to see if com­mu­ni­ties can take any fur­ther re­cov­ery,’’ Mr An­der­son said. ■ A com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion meeting will take place at the De­niliquin Golf Club at 1 Golf Club Rd on Fri­day, Novem­ber 2 from noon. ■ To reg­is­ter your in­ter­est in at­tend­ing the meeting, email: mdb­wip.con­sul­ta­

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