70,000 peo­ple Speak Up

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

A com­mu­nity-based cam­paign is play­ing its role in ed­u­cat­ing the pub­lic about wa­ter is­sues.

While dy­ing fish and a South Aus­tralian based Royal Com­mis­sion dom­i­nate me­dia head­lines, the Speak Up Cam­paign con­tin­ues pro­mot­ing fair­ness and bal­ance.

‘‘It’s a tough mes­sage to get across,” said Speak Up deputy chair Lach­lan Mar­shall, of Blighty.

‘‘We are sig­nif­i­cantly out-re­sourced, but we think we punch above our weight with the limited re­sources at our dis­posal.’’

A re­cent on­line pe­ti­tion or­gan­ised by Speak Up gath­ered an im­pres­sive 70,000 sig­na­tures from peo­ple through­out Aus­tralia sup­port­ing im­proved wa­ter pol­icy.

The pe­ti­tion, via www.change.org, states the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan is fail­ing ru­ral and indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, fam­ily farms and the en­vi­ron­ment, and as a re­sult of wa­ter re­form the di­ver­sity of agri­cul­tural sys­tems has been re­duced.

The pe­ti­tion states that the ‘‘en­vi­ron­ment and agri­cul­tural pol­icy must go hand in hand, one does not need to be in com­pe­ti­tion with the other. We call on all gov­ern­ments to put pol­i­tics aside and start gov­ern­ing for the whole Basin by treat­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, fam­ily farms and the en­vi­ron­ment with re­spect and on an equal foot­ing.’’

Mr Mar­shall said sup­port for the pe­ti­tion high­lighted that Aus­tralians want a bal­anced Basin Plan that pro­tects the en­vi­ron­ment, but does not sac­ri­fice the fam­ily farm.

‘‘That is not what we have at the mo­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘We have a poorly de­vel­oped plan that is dec­i­mat­ing many fam­ily farm­ers, as well as ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘At the same time, be­cause we do not have ef­fec­tive mon­i­tor­ing of en­vi­ron­men­tal flows, there is dam­age to the iconic Mur­ray River be­cause au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to force too much wa­ter through the sys­tem.’’

An­other so­cial me­dia suc­cess for Speak Up has been a video fea­tur­ing Mr Mar­shall, who pleaded with au­thor­i­ties to an­nounce a small al­lo­ca­tion for NSW Mur­ray food pro­duc­ers on Fe­bru­ary 1.

It had a reach of 37,000 view­ers, and a drought video fea­tur­ing Speak Up chair Shel­ley Scoullar reached 42,000.

The NSW De­part­ment of In­dus­try - Wa­ter ig­nored the pleas and an­nounced an­other zero per cent al­lo­ca­tion in the NSW Mur­ray on Fe­bru­ary 1, how­ever lo­cal wa­ter dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Ltd came to the res­cue of its share­hold­ers with a five per cent re­source al­lo­ca­tion.

Mr Mar­shall said through the ef­forts of Speak Up and other ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns peo­ple are slowly but surely learn­ing about the plight of food pro­duc­ing in Aus­tralia.

‘‘We are the most ef­fi­cient wa­ter users in the world, but un­for­tu­nately the same level of ef­fi­ciency does not spread to our politi­cians and bu­reau­crats.

‘‘They are afraid to un­der­take the solutions which could fix the Basin Plan mess.

‘‘This should in­clude se­ri­ous in­fra­struc­ture works at the end of the sys­tem to stop wa­ter be­ing wasted, and ac­knowl­edg­ing the dam­age be­ing caused by ex­ces­sive Mur­ray River flows.

‘‘Speak Up will con­tinue high­light­ing the mis­takes be­ing made, in the hope some­one will have the po­lit­i­cal strength to do some­thing about it.’’

If you would like more in­for­ma­tion about the Speak Up Cam­paign, or would like to join, visit www.speakup4wa­ter.com.

Lach­lan Mar­shall.

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