The Mayors of four local government areas in southern New South Wales have joined forces in a plea for authorities to protect their communities.
It comes amid mounting concern about the loss of jobs and regional prosperity, brought about by Government inability to effectively manage water resources.
The Mayors are particularly concerned about the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s approach to the present crisis, and this was heightened following comments from its Chief Executive Officer Phillip Glyde.
In an Opinion column published last week under the heading ‘Basin plan eases drought pain’, Mr Glyde spoke about making tough decisions in what he termed a “challenging season”.
He tried to explain water sharing rules and why food and fibre producers in the NSW Murray have a zero water allocation, stating he had been conscious of “operating the system as efficiently as possible, while ensuring we move water through the system so it is available in the right place to meet demands over summer and into 2019”.
The Mayors believe the MDBA is expecting its community members to make “tough decisions” and are suffering the consequences, while “tough decisions” are avoided by the MDBA which hides behind ‘rules’ and abandons promises of flexibility and adaptability.
The Mayors of Edward River Council (Cr Norm Brennan), Murray River Council (Cr Chris Bilkey), Berrigan Shire Council (Cr Matt Hannan) and Murrumbidgee Shire Council (Cr Ruth McRae) believe the comments made by Mr Glyde highlight the MDBA’s failure to appreciate the frustrations being felt in their communities and the lack of flexibility in water management.
“The Basin Plan is not easing drought pain, in fact there is no question it is making the pain worse,” Cr Brennan said.
“The Snowy Scheme, along with Hume and Dartmouth Dams, were built to drought proof our regions, but all we see now is water poured down the
system to South Australia while our food and fibre producers sit idle on a zero water allocation.
“When the Basin Plan was being developed we were promised it would be adaptive and flexible. Quite clearly, when flexibility is needed it is non-existent.”
Cr Bilkey said he did not believe Mr Glyde was cognisant of the enormous impact the Basin Plan was having on their communities.
“For example the small town of Wakool, in our Council area, has been devastated by the Basin Plan.
“Last week the Wakool Football Netball Club had to make the very tough decision to close down because it cannot get enough players. I’m not sure Mr Glyde and others who keep telling us we are getting a balanced plan are aware of the impact something like this has on a small community.
“These impacts are being felt right across the farm producing regions of our Council. Our food and fibre producers are watching water pour down the river to South Australia, while their paddocks are bare because they have a zero allocation.”
Cr McRae said the Mayors all know inflows into the system are low, but the current management of our water resources must come under serious scrutiny.
“We have to improve it to protect our communities, and it appears Mr Glyde needs to develop a greater appreciation for this indisputable fact,” Cr McRae said.
In Berrigan Shire, Mayor Matt Hannan said his community has endured too much pain from the Basin Plan and it must be rectified. The shire’s towns of Berrigan and Finley, which rely so heavily on farming prosperity, are buckling under the strain.
“We have experienced enough pain and can’t take any more,” Cr Hannan said.
“Finley and Berrigan – both the towns and regions – have been severely affected by water issues with a loss of jobs, skills and wealth.
“We are almost beyond trying to get the MDBA and governments to understand our plight and take positive action.
“Berrigan Shire, like Murrumbidgee, Edward and Murray River Councils, is part of the Regional Strategy Group which is trying desperately to get our concerns heard. From the MDBA’s perspective, at least, we’re still not getting our message across.
“We were promised a balanced Basin Plan that protected our communities. That is simply not happening and this broken promise must be addressed,” Cr Hannan said.
Crs Brennan, McRae and Bilkey said they whole-heartedly supported this sentiment.
The four Mayors added that former Water Minister and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had promised farmers and regional communities that the Basin Plan and water reform would mean greater water reliability for food producers, especially in low rainfall periods. The total opposite has happened.
For further information and interviews: Contact Cr Chris Bilkey 0439163272 or email firstname.lastname@example.org