Concerns for future of water, communities
Decisions made this week could make or break some of Australia’s rural communities.
Despite the enormity of these decisions, communities at risk are concerned government ministers will not be fully informed.
The mayors of four local government areas in southern NSW have joined forces to call for absolute transparency, especially from Federal Water Minister David Littleproud.
Mr Littleproud will sit around the table in Melbourne on Friday with state water ministers and Murray-Darling Basin Authority bureaucrats and representatives to discuss additional water recovery under the basin plan.
There is a legislated commitment that none of this water will be recovered if it could lead to adverse impacts on affected communities.
Mayors who want this promise upheld are Cr Norm Brennan (Edward River Council), Cr Chris Bilkey (Murray River Council), Cr Matt Hannan (Berrigan Shire Council) and Cr Ruth McRae (Murrumbidgee Shire Council).
They still have serious concerns that despite unequivocal evidence that recovering more water without further job losses and economic pain was simply not possible, Mr Littleproud continues to support this water recovery.
They are also worried about transparency around information that will be provided to water ministers, considering it has been sadly lacking throughout the basin plan process.
‘‘Getting the decisions right at Friday’s meeting of water ministers is vital to our communities. It’s make or break for many of us,’’ the mayors said collectively.
They are concerned water ministers will not be well armed with the views of basin communities, because in the past information from socalled consultation sessions has been ‘‘cherrypicked to suit the agenda’’.
‘‘We believe a report on community consultation from Sefton and Associates will be presented to ministers this week,’’ they said.
‘‘Our communities need to see a copy of this report to ensure it accurately encapsulates the messages we delivered.
‘‘Mr Littleproud stated this consultation process and report would strongly influence decisions around the neutrality test, and how they determine a ‘negative impact’.
This is our future, so surely we’re entitled to know what it is based on.’’