Con­cerns over La­bor cap re­peal

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

The Mur­ray Re­gional Strat­egy Group (MRSG) is go­ing to reach out to La­bor’s fed­eral wa­ter spokesman Tony Burke to dis­cuss the wa­ter cri­sis un­fold­ing in the NSW Mur­ray.

MRSG chair­man Alan Mathers (pic­tured) said the com­mu­nity-based group wants to work with the La­bor Party and was con­cerned with com­ments made re­cently by Mr Burke, who in­di­cated if La­bor wins the fed­eral elec­tion it will abol­ish the cap on wa­ter buy­backs and scrap the neu­tral­ity test which state wa­ter min­is­ters in­tro­duced in De­cem­ber to pro­tect ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

Mr Mathers said the com­ments send a neg­a­tive mes­sage about the fu­ture prospects for the next gen­er­a­tion of young farm­ers, who want to hear La­bor’s vi­sion for the re­gion.

He said he had a pos­i­tive meet­ing last week with Prime Min­is­ter Scott Morrison, at which is­sues around un­in­tended con­se­quences of the Basin Plan were dis­cussed.

‘‘Mr Morrison now has a much bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the dam­age to our com­mu­ni­ties from the Basin Plan, and seemed im­pressed by the so­lu­tions we pre­sented to him. It seems rea­son­able that we now try to con­vey these so­lu­tions to La­bor lead­ers.

‘‘The re­cent com­ments from Mr Burke in­di­cate he may also not be aware of what is hap­pen­ing in this re­gion.’’

Mr Mathers said MRSG wants to work with Mr Burke, a key La­bor politi­cian, to en­sure he knows about the en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion, the job losses, the men­tal health is­sues, and the un­nec­es­sary im­pact on our com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘I am sure if he en­gages with our com­mu­nity he would see things in a dif­fer­ent light,’’ Mr Mathers said.

He said wa­ter is a very complex is­sue and we should not au­to­mat­i­cally ex­pect our politi­cians to have in­ti­mate knowl­edge about our part of the sys­tem.

‘‘Hope­fully, on behalf of MRSG, I will get an opportunity to dis­cuss our con­cerns with Mr Burke. Lo­cal peo­ple who have lived and breathed the sys­tem for gen­er­a­tions are best placed to help de­liver pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes, and hope­fully Mr Burke will understand this.’’

Mr Mathers said the is­sues be­ing faced go be­yond chal­lenges around the so­cial fab­ric and eco­nomic pros­per­ity of our com­mu­ni­ties, as there are now huge con­cerns about the en­vi­ron­ment, and the dam­age be­ing caused by the Basin Plan.

‘‘Those of us liv­ing in the re­gion can see the destruc­tion of the most pre­cious en­vi­ron­ment in the world due to in­creased vol­umes of wa­ter be­ing forced down the Mur­ray River, be­yond its capacity.

‘‘We have river bank slump­ing and ero­sion, the Barmah Choke is col­laps­ing and the mighty red gum forests are under ex­treme pres­sure from over-wa­ter­ing. And we also keep cre­at­ing ideal breed­ing con­di­tions for those ‘ rab­bits of the river’, the Eu­ro­pean carp.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, cou­pled with the en­vi­ron­men­tal de­te­ri­o­ra­tion we have a bu­reau­cracy that is re­luc­tant to ac­knowl­edge the ad­verse im­pacts of the Basin Plan, seem­ingly be­cause it sees it­self as be­ing pri­mar­ily obligated to de­liver wa­ter, and not re­spon­si­ble for the dam­age be­ing caused along the way.

‘‘We would like Mr Burke to be bet­ter briefed on the river health problems of the mid-Mur­ray sys­tem; if he has a bet­ter understanding he will be more likely to take re­me­dial ac­tion,” Mr Mathers said.

He added that from MRSG’s per­spec­tive, it wants to work with who­ever is in govern­ment to achieve bet­ter en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes not only for this re­gion, but for the en­tire Basin.

The MRSG is a com­mu­nity-based or­gan­i­sa­tion rep­re­sent­ing lo­cal govern­ment, com­mu­nity, busi­ness and farm­ing groups in the Cen­tral Mur­ray re­gion of NSW.

Mr Mathers said the mem­bers are prac­ti­cal peo­ple who live and work in the re­gion.

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