River Group con­demns lack of Di­ver­sion Limit con­sul­ta­tion

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

No de­tails or di­rect con­sul­ta­tion on Sus­tain­able Di­ver­sion Limit (SDL) projects have been shared with those most af­fected, ac­cord­ing to the lead­ers of two district rep­re­sen­ta­tive groups.

They say it is lead­ing to a strong re­sponse from ri­par­ian land­hold­ers, from the Hume Dam to the South­ern Riverina and on to De­niliquin.

Ac­cord­ing to Mur­ray River Ac­tion Group, Mur­ray River land­hold­ers and busi­nesses are an­gry they have not been con­sulted nor been given op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide in­put be­fore Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin state min­is­ters en­dorsed the fi­nal pack­age of SDL Ad­just­ment Mech­a­nism projects on Fri­day, June 16.

MRAG chair Richard Sar­good, who rep­re­sents land­hold­ers from Hume Dam to Yarrawonga Weir, said de­ci­sions have been made that will se­verely af­fect the man­age­ment and vi­a­bil­ity of ri­par­ian busi­nesses and these ap­pear to have been sac­ri­ficed for the per­ceived ben­e­fit of wider po­lit­i­cal and in­dus­try ben­e­fits.

‘‘We haven’t been con­sulted and no con­clu­sions can be drawn that these are ‘ done deals’,’’ Mr Sar­good said.

‘‘These projects are con­cept plans with ab­so­lutely no de­tail in many of them. We un­der­stand this, but the re­al­ity is a whole lot of as­sump­tions are be­ing made by peo­ple who aren’t af­fected by the de­ci­sions.

‘‘State­ments from in­dus­try groups wel­com­ing state govern­ments en­dorse­ment of projects makes no men­tion that the peo­ple most af­fected by a large num­ber of the de­ci­sions haven’t been prop­erly con­sulted or in fact have agreed with them.’’

Ri­par­ian land­holder and Mur­ray Val­ley Pri­vate Divert­ers vice chair Louise Burge said di­rect re­quests for mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tion with af­fected par­ties on Mur­ray Val­ley projects prior to them be­ing submitted have been ig­nored.

‘‘There are a lot of is­sues at risk right along the Mur­ray and Ed­ward Wakool River sys­tem,’’ she said.

‘‘Changes to the way these river sys­tems cur­rently flow will have a va­ri­ety of con­se­quences on ru­ral busi­nesses and peo­ple’s lives.’’

Mr Sar­good con­firmed there had been no con­sul­ta­tion with his group, and yet an­nounce­ments are be­ing made which he says ‘‘have huge con­se­quences for our liveli­hoods’’.

‘‘The Mur­ray River Ac­tion Group and other af­fected land­hold­ers, car­a­van parks and busi­nesses have not been con­sulted nor in­cluded in this de­ci­sion mak­ing process that will un­doubt­edly se­verely im­pact our daily lives,’’ he said.

A com­mu­nique re­leased fol­low­ing the meet­ing of basin min­is­ters on June 16 out­lined that basin gov­ern- ments have iden­ti­fied ways to achieve en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes and re­duce the im­pacts of floods.

The claim made on ef­forts to re­duce flood­ing risks have been dis­puted by both Mr Sar­good and Mrs Burge.

‘‘It is un­for­tu­nate that those pro­vid­ing ad­vice on this state­ment are by peo­ple who don’t un­der­stand the real risks and are not af­fected by the de­ci­sions. Added to this, de­part­men­tal changes in New South Wales mean many peo­ple with years of ex­pe­ri­ence have gone,’’ Mr Sar­good said.

‘‘For six years we have con­stantly said be­fore govern­ments buy up all this wa­ter un­der the Basin Plan, they should have a plan for how it’s to be de­liv­ered. Now we are in that stage.

‘‘The re­cent Oc­to­ber 2016 flood should also high­light no mat­ter how much wa­ter is bought up, it won’t clear the Mur­ray Mouth. Three weeks af­ter the cat­a­strophic floods in the Mur­ray and these flood flows reached the Mur­ray Mouth, dredg­ing of sand has to be re­sumed.

‘‘It highlights just how poorly de­signed this whole ap­proach has been.’’

It is be­lieved a pa­per out­lin­ing ‘The lessons learnt from the 2016 floods’ was pre­sented to last week’s min­is­te­rial meet­ing, and Mr Sar­good said again there ap­peared to be no in­put into this re­port from those af­fected by these floods.

‘‘This pa­per has not been made public, its source is un­known and de­ci­sions ap­pear to have been made pre­sum­ably us­ing this re­port as a ref­er­ence, yet this pa­per is with­out peer re­view,’’ he said.

‘‘The MDBA have a re­ally bad his­tory re­lat­ing to con­sul­ta­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion and this com­mu­nique from the min­is­te­rial meet­ing only adds to this ap­palling track record of con­sul­ta­tion with peo­ple af­fected by de­ci­sions.’’

Mrs Burge and Mr Sar­good said the process now rests on how state govern­ments treat the af­fected par­ties.

‘‘Forg­ing ahead with de­ci­sions and empty prom­ises of con­sul­ta­tion is not go­ing to achieve the min­is­te­rial coun­cil ob­jec­tives,’’ Mrs Burge said.

Mur­ray Val­ley Pri­vate Divert­ers vice chair Louise Burge.

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