Ber­ri­gan mayor calls for basin plan ad­just­ment pack­age

Southern Riverina news - - Front Page -

Ber­ri­gan Shire Mayor John Bruce says the gov­ern­ment should of­fer a struc­tural ad­just­ment pack­age if it goes through with the pro­posed Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan.

Cr Bruce be­lieves the pack­age should in­clude an on­go­ing grants pro­gram, and in­fra­struc­ture ef­fi­ciency fund­ing to ce­ment the fu­ture of lo­cal agri­cul­ture.

He said the pack­age should not repli­cate the struc­tural ad­just­ment of­fered when lo­cal state forests were con­verted to Na­tional Parks in 2010.

‘‘We’ve got to have in­vest­ment that cre­ates jobs and in­dus­try that is on­go­ing,’’ Cr Bruce said.

He sug­gested money for de­liv­ery sys­tem and on-farm ef­fi­cien­cies, and fund­ing to up­grade the Tocumwal rail sys­tem.

‘‘If we are go­ing to see con­tin­ued direct buy-backs of wa­ter into the fu­ture . . . we re­ally need in­vest­ment in in­fra­struc­ture and other in­dus­try to re­place what we will lose.

‘‘The only in­dus­try we have re­ally got is wa­ter.’’

Lo­cals fear there will be se­vere so­cial and eco­nomic reper­cus­sions if the pro­posed Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan di­verts 2750 gi­gal­itres of wa­ter from pro­duc­tive use to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Cr Bruce dis­puted gov­ern­ment claims that coun­try towns need to di­ver­sify their in­dus­tries.

‘‘We are be­ing told to try and look at other in­dus­try, but if we knew what that in­dus­try was, would it not have been here by now?’’ he said.

Cr Bruce also said coun­try job losses don’t seem to mat­ter as much to the gov­ern­ment as city job losses.

He pointed to the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ment $40 mil­lion Al­coa alu­minium smelter bail out as an ex­am­ple.

The money means about 900 jobs have been di­rectly or in­di­rectly saved un­til 2014.

‘‘The gov­ern­ment straight away came out and said, ‘We need to do some­thing about this’,’’ Cr Bruce said.

A study by Hy­der Con­sult­ing in as­so­ci­a­tion with Ac­cess Eco­nomics pointed to 337 — and pos­si­bly hun­dreds more — job losses in the Cen­tral Mur­ray Clus­ter Group of Coun­cils if the basin plan goes through.

The clus­ter is made up of Ber­ri­gan, Jer­ilderie, Conargo, De­niliquin, Mur­ray and Wakool.

Cr Bruce said coun­try jobs should be more valu­able than city jobs, as coun­try ar­eas have smaller pop­u­la­tions.

‘‘When we see the Com­mon­wealth pro­pose to im­ple­ment its Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan and di­rectly in­flict sim­i­lar lev­els of job losses on ru­ral ar­eas, we don’t hear a thing, much less see any ac­tual ac­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘The Com­mon­wealth and the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity con­tinue to take the view that they are right and ev­ery­one else is wrong and there will only be min­i­mal im­pacts.’’

Fin­ley Cham­ber of Com­merce Pres­i­dent Rand Wil­son be­lieves Fin­ley will be one of the towns hard­est hit by the basin plan.

‘‘The two towns I be­lieve will be af­fected most from the basin plan are Fin­ley and Coleam­bally - towns which grew be­cause of gov­ern­ment-spon­sored ir­ri­ga­tion schemes,’’ he said.

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