Six permanent local engagement officers have been appointed across the Murray-Darling Basin but none are based near the Goulburn Valley.
Announced by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder last week, the officers will be based in Wodonga, Wagga Wagga, Mildura, Tamworth, Walgett and Berri and will work with communities to protect rivers and wetlands.
The permanent appointments come following a three-year trial across six locations that included Deniliquin and Mildura.
NSW community group Speak Up labelled the decision not to place a permanent officer in Deniliquin or surrounding areas a ‘‘slap in the face’’.
‘‘It is beginning to look like we ask too many questions, which departments don’t like to answer,’’ Speak Up spokesperson Shelley Scoullar said.
‘‘Perhaps the CEWO (Commonwealth Environmental Water Office) is more comfortable having its Riverina office in Wagga Wagga, where the Riverina engagement officer will be based, which is far removed from where most of the excessive environmental flows are taking place.’’
A spokesperson for the Commonwealth Environment Water Office said officers based in Wodonga and Wagga Wagga would cover a region from northern Victoria to the Lachlan, including the mid-Murray and Murrumbidgee areas.
‘‘The locations that have been chosen reflect the need to have a balance across river valleys and state borders,’’ the CEWO spokesperson said.
‘‘As has been the case during the pilot program, local engagement officers will be travelling regularly across their regions engaging with community members,’’ the spokesperson said.
Goulburn Valley Environment Group president John Pettigrew said he was surprised to see no representative within the Goulburn Valley or Riverina regions.
‘‘I thought it was a long gap for us (between the closest local engagement officers), we seem to be in the middle of nowhere in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District.’’
Former North East Catchment Management Authority catchment co-ordinator Anthony Wilson will fill the Wodonga role while Richard Mintern will continue in the job role in Mildura.
The organisation also announced the appointment of its first Aboriginal local engagement officer with Yuwaalaaraay/Euahlayiand and Kamilaroi traditional owner Jason Wilson to be based in Walgett in northern NSW.
Wagga Wagga local engagement officer Erin Lenon will continue in the role she has held for the previous three years, building on her experience as a floodplain ecologist and former staff member of Riverina Local Land Services.
Former Murrumbidgee Landcare co-ordinator and Murray-Darling Basin Authority employee Madeline Gorham is acting engagement officer while Ms Lenon is on maternity leave.