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Secretive entrance and exit at community meeting described as “disappointing” and “gutless”

By Country News

Community stakeholders have labelled a secretive entrance and exit to a meeting in Deniliquin by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Deputy Premier John Barilaro as ‘‘disappointing’’ and ‘‘gutless’’.

The state’s two most high-profile politicians met with invited community stakeholders at The Crossing Café from about noon to 1.30pm on Saturday, April 27.

Others who were not invited nor officially made aware of the meeting, including NSW State Member for Murray Helen Dalton, waited outside the restaurant for their chance of even a brief encounter with their premier and deputy premier.

Also shut out of the meetings were Andrew Crossley and Jon Gatacre, who chair West Berriquin Irrigators and the Denimein Landholder Association respectively.

The men said they knocked on the door of The Crossing Cafe to request entry, but were turned away by the premier’s people.

‘‘It is pretty disappointing when the premier and the deputy premier turn up in Deniliquin — an area where people are most affected by water policy — and they can’t even come out and address the small crowd waiting outside,’’ Mr Gatacre said.

‘‘I would ask why our new water minister (Melinda Pavey) was not with them on this tour.

‘‘I would also ask why certain people and peak irrigation organisations were not invited to the meeting.’’

Mrs Dalton, who won the seat of Murray from the Coalition at the March 23 election for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, said she learned of Saturday’s visit from a member of the NSW Opposition on Friday afternoon.

‘‘I was at Parliament House and I heard about the visit from the Shadow Water Minister Chris Minns — so even people in Sydney knew when people in Deniliquin did not — and then I made a couple of phone calls,’’ she said.

‘‘Gladys said before the election she would not work with the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, but if she wants a good outcome for the regions she has to speak with people to understand ... and that includes me.

‘‘It is unfortunate we have been treated this way — they (the Coalition) are not learning. How can they expect to have the support of the community if they are locked out?

‘‘I am happy to work with the premier, and I would be happy to welcome her back to Deniliquin on another visit,’’ Mrs Dalton said.

Edward River Council Mayor Norm Brennan defended his decision not to invite representatives from all local irrigator and landholder groups to meet with Ms Berejiklian and Mr Barilaro in Deniliquin.

Cr Brennan said the meeting was only open to a certain number of guests and also confirmed he was under direction not to promote the visit before their arrival on Saturday.

‘‘We wanted the meeting to be as all encompassing as possible,’’ Cr Brennan said.

‘‘Water is certainly the overarching issue, but it is not the only issue we have.

‘‘We did have some water representatives there, and the premier and deputy premier know we have some real problems in that area.’’

Ricegrowers Association president Jeremy Morton and Speak Up campaign chair Shelley Scoullar were among those invited to the meeting.