FUND­ING SNUB

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE -

Re­gional lead­ers are fu­ri­ous at the lat­est snub to the South­ern Rive­rina from Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment grant money to sup­port ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

De­spite be­ing recog­nised as one of the most heav­ily im­pacted re­gions un­der Basin Plan im­ple­men­ta­tion, nei­ther Ber­ri­gan nor Fin­ley will get any money from the lat­est fund­ing pro­gram.

In­stead, much of the fund­ing will go to South Aus­tralian com­mu­ni­ties, de­spite the fact they are re­ceiv­ing most ben­e­fit from hav­ing ad­di­tional wa­ter.

The lat­est de­ci­sion has in­censed Ber­ri­gan Shire Mayor Matt Han­nan and Gen­eral Man­ager Rowan Perkins.

They went to Al­bury on Fri­day to dis­cuss the snub with fed­eral Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley, who has sub­se­quently ex­pressed con­cern to Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son and fed­eral Wa­ter Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud.

The lat­est $20 mil­lion un­der the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram is ad­min­is­tered by the fed­eral Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources. It named 15 towns which will be el­i­gi­ble for fund­ing: Berri, Cob­dogla-Barmera, Colig­nan, Col­larene­bri, Cun­na­mulla, Dir­ran­bandi, Lox­ton, Lower Lakes, Mer­bein, Red Cliffs, Rochester, St Ge­orge, Swan Reach, Wakool and War­ren.

Mr Perkins said he was “gob­s­macked” that Fin­ley and Ber­ri­gan are not on the list.

The sc South­ern Rive­rina News un­der­stands one of the key is­sues out­lined dur­ing the meet­ing with Ms Ley was pop­u­la­tion and work­force de­cline.

Com­pared to the 10 south­ern basin com­mu­ni­ties which will re­ceive fund­ing, Fin­ley ranked fifth in pop­u­la­tion de­cline whereas Mer­bein, Lox­ton and Lower Lakes — all el­i­gi­ble for fund­ing — en­joyed pop­u­la­tion in­creases.

Ber­ri­gan and Fin­ley have also suf­fered the worst among full time em­ploy­ment, fall­ing by seven per cent.

‘‘There’s this spin put to­gether say­ing ‘noth­ing to see here’ but look­ing at the facts it’s quite a dif­fer­ent story,’’ Mr Perkins said.

‘‘I wouldn’t have thought the Lower Lakes was suf­fer­ing as much as us.

‘‘This fund­ing would help us di­ver­sify the lo­cal econ­omy. We could spend some money on our two aged care fa­cil­i­ties cre­at­ing more jobs in that sec­tor.’’

Ber­ri­gan and Fin­ley have also ex­pe­ri­enced the big­gest so­cio-eco­nomic im­pact of any basin com­mu­nity, ac­cord­ing to So­cio-Eco­nomic In­dexes for Ar­eas (SEIFA).

Cr Han­nan said there hasn’t been enough ac­knowl­edge­ment of the Basin Plan’s im­pact on Ber­ri­gan and Fin­ley.

‘‘We have lost over 600 jobs in the last 10 years and our SEIFA rat­ing has dropped dra­mat­i­cally. If we can get ac­cess to a wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion then our com­mu­ni­ties can hold their own, be­cause farm­ers will able to do what they do best,’’ he said.

‘‘Ber­ri­gan and Fin­ley had a SEIFA rat­ing of seven and it now sits at three. If you drop one point of the SEIFA rat­ing it can be con­sid­ered se­vere and we’ve dropped four points.’’

Ms Ley said Ber­ri­gan Shire had pro­vided a ‘‘very com­pre­hen­sive and sober ar­gu­ment’’ into the im­pacts of the Basin Plan.

‘‘Fol­low­ing our dis­cus­sions on Fri­day I con­tacted both the Prime Min­is­ter (Scott Mor­ri­son) and Wa­ter Min­is­ter (David Lit­tleproud) pass­ing on my strong sup­port for their case,’’ she said.

‘‘Wa­ter re­cov­ery tar­gets are not just a set of num­bers.

‘‘Real peo­ple across a wide area are be­ing af­fected and it’s very im­por­tant all de­ci­sions taken in Can­berra clearly re­flect this,’’ she said.

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