Unit­ing com­mu­ni­ties at water fo­rum

Yarrawonga Chronicle - - On The Land -

Com­mu­ni­ties such as Yar­ra­wonga and Mul­wala from across north­ern Vic­to­ria and south­ern New South Wales will come to­gether next month at a fo­rum to talk about their fu­ture.

A range of speak­ers and pan­els will dis­cuss com­mon is­sues which are af­fect­ing the pros­per­ity of nu­mer­ous towns and in­dus­tries.

The fo­rum is ti­tled ‘Unit­ing the South­ern Basin’ and is an ini­tia­tive of the Speak Up Cam­paign, with sup­port from in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions through­out the Goul­burn and Mur­rumbidgee Val­leys, and as far west as Mil­dura.

It is be­ing de­scribed as an open water fo­rum to con­sider ‘what is hap­pen­ing to our com­mu­ni­ties?’, ‘why is it hap­pen­ing?’ and ‘what can we do about it?’

It will be held at the Moama Bowl­ing Club on Fri­day April 13 from 11am.

Speak Up chair Shel­ley Scoullar said South­ern Basin com­mu­ni­ties are frus­trated that they are the col­lat­eral dam­age from an un­bal­anced Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan.

“The South­ern Basin has been the hard­est hit by the plan – we’ve done the heavy lift­ing. It is time to come to­gether and en­sure our sur­vival,” Mrs Scoullar said.

The fo­rum will have three key top­ics – com­mu­nity im­pacts, en­vi­ron­ment and pol­i­tics.

Each will have key­note speak­ers fol­lowed by a panel dis­cus­sion, fa­cil­i­tated by for­mer Na­tional Ir­ri­ga­tors Coun­cil Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Tom Ches­son. Panel mem­bers will ad­dress how we can max­imise en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes with the water al­ready re­cov­ered, and what mea­sures need to be put in place to en­sure it pro­vides the best out­comes. Mrs Scoullar said more in­for­ma­tion on the speaker list will be avail­able as the fo­rum ap­proaches, but it will in­clude prom­i­nent en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­fes­sor Peter Gell, a renowned in­ter­na­tional river ex­pert, com­mu­nity lead­ers from across the South­ern Basin, and a prom­i­nent so­cio-eco­nomic re­searcher.

“We will dis­cuss the present sit­u­a­tion with im­ple­men­ta­tion of the Basin Plan, in­clud­ing its im­pact on com­mu­ni­ties and the ad­verse en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fects that too many peo­ple do not want to ac­knowl­edge.

“Im­por­tantly, we will also look at a range of fu­ture op­tions which we hope can later be pre­sented to gov­ern­ments. The aim is not to ad­mon­ish the Basin Plan, but rather to look at how it can be more ef­fec­tive.”

Mrs Scoullar said too many gov­ern­ments, in­clud­ing the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and Op­po­si­tion, ap­pear more in­ter­ested in their po­lit­i­cal sur­vival and en­vi­ron­men­tal votes than de­liv­er­ing a com­mon-sense Basin Plan that pro­tects both the en­vi­ron­ment and ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

“For­tu­nately we have seen a show of strength in re­cent times from the New South Wales and Vic­to­rian Gov­ern­ments, who have threat­ened to with­draw from the Basin Plan as their protest against po­lit­i­cal games.

“Our com­mu­ni­ties un­der­stand that we need a plan – but we want one that is fair and bal­anced, which we’re not get­ting.

“We also want ac­knowl­edge­ment of its ad­verse im­pacts. A re­cent MDBA study showed huge loss of pop­u­la­tion and job op­por­tu­ni­ties in many food pro­duc­ing ar­eas. We know the Basin Plan is the ma­jor con­trib­u­tor, but there is still a propen­sity to hide the real prob­lems amid moth­er­hood state­ments like ‘it’s just one of a range of is­sues’.

“We want an hon­est ap­proach to the plan so tax­pay­ers are aware that their $13 bil­lion in­vest­ment is not the en­vi­ron­men­tal panacea that some peo­ple are claim­ing,” Mrs Scoullar said.

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