Tension in SRI over backing of NSW election candidate

By Rodney Woods

Tension inside the Southern Riverina Irrigators has emerged after a press release from the group publicly backed a Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate in Saturday's NSW state election.

The group's chair Chris Brooks said he wanted to openly back Helen Dalton in the seat of Murray but the incumbent member Austin Evans said this was not the view of all members.

"I know that not everyone supports me and I know not everyone is against me," he said.

"I think there will be a bit of tension around this."

Mr Brooks acknowledged this was something unusual but said it was needed.

"I understand that traditionally this is not something which would be done by someone in my position," he said.

"However, the situation is so desperate that as a region we have no choice but to advocate for change that may provide us with better outcomes.

"We have tried working with the Nationals and impressing on their representatives at local, state and federal level the need to work with us to develop solutions to the present crisis.

"Unfortunately, for what appears to be political reasons, our attempts have achieved nothing.

"Without change we will continue to fall victim to poor water policy decisions which favour the top end of the system," Mr Brooks said.

Former SRI chair and now delegate to the group Gabrielle Coupland described the decision as a "captain's call", saying that irrigators should be able to vote for whoever they like.

"Irrigation farmers are an intelligent group of people operating complex farming systems in difficult conditions," she said.

"I believe they have ability to research candidates and work out which one will provide them stable government and solutions.

"I'm part of the Berriquin Irrigators Council and a delegate to the SRI and this has not been mentioned at any level.

"It’s a captain call and its not appropriate for a grassroots organisation to be making captain's calls like this."

Mr Evans said groups, such as the SRI, should remain apolitical unless they were sure a significant majority were in favour of backing candidates.