PM implored to help

By Country News

A local group is hoping a meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week will spur him on to intervene in the water crisis.

Representatives from Speak Up and the Murray Regional Strategy Group travelled to Canberra for the meeting held last Wednesday, organised by Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley.

It follows a letter to Mr Morrison signed by 15 community, farming, indigenous and local government groups pleading with him to meet with them and visit the region.

Mr Morrison initially declined the request, instead encouraging them to meet with Federal Water Minister David Littleproud and Murray-Darling Basin Authority chief executive Phillip Glyde.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar and deputy chair Lachlan Marshall, as well as Murray Regional Strategy Group chair Alan Mathers attended the meeting which included Mr Littleproud and Ms Ley.

Mrs Scoullar said Mr Morrison was greatly concerned about the crisis being faced in our region.

‘‘He listened intently and showed genuine interest in finding out more about some of the information we provided. There is no doubt he was not aware of the severity of the impact being felt in our region due to flaws in the basin plan,’’ she said.

Mr Mathers said the delegation presented four key messages to Mr Morrison, highlighting that the current water crisis in southern NSW and northern Victoria was not caused by the drought.

He said the group encouraged the Federal Government to declare a national emergency to ensure water allocations were made available in the southern basin to underpin the 2019-20 season, as well as pause, review and re-set the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Water waste and the level of water being sent down the Murray River to meet demand in South Australia was also discussed with Mr Morrison, as well as the job losses, economic decline and the failure to acknowledge and fix problems.

‘‘Mr Morrison recognised the complexities around water sharing and acknowledged the basin plan would need much further investigation on his behalf. He seemed open to pursuing this,’’ Mr Mathers said.

‘‘However, with the election seemingly only weeks away, parliament will not be sitting until after May, which makes decision-making difficult until we have a new government.’’

Mr Morrison was also handed a heartfelt letter from Mr Marshall’s 11-year-old daughter Ella, written at her own initiative when she realised her father was going to visit the Prime Minister.

‘‘It was an honest, raw account from a young girl about how the lack of water is affecting herself, her family and her friends,’’ Mr Marshall said.

The local delegation had further discussions with Ms Ley and an adviser from Mr Littleproud’s office about taking immediate action that will see water made available to the region’s food producers.

‘‘They committed to working with us to do everything possible to find a solution,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.