Opinion

Furious at late notice

By Country News

We are furious about the lack of planning with an issue of national importance which could leave a trail of economic destruction.

Invitations went out on Thursday, October 18, from the Federal Government’s Murray-Darling Basin Water Infrastructure Program, to participate in community meetings begun this week.

There is extreme community frustration at the lack of notification and planning for the meetings which started on Monday in Mildura and will run until November 6 across a number of regional centres in the southern basin.

The Federal Government has known about this since June, and the way it is being organised shows it is nothing more than an 11th hour tick-the-box consultation.

How can our Federal Government be so disorganised that notification of meetings go out less than a week before the consultation period begins?

The Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council agreed on June 8 to develop additional socio-economic neutrality criteria by the end of 2018, to apply to programs and proposals to recover another 450Gl of water under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The need for effective community and stakeholder communication and consultation was acknowledged.

The whole point of broadening the socio-economic criteria was to pick up the wider impacts to communities due to the recovery of an additional 450Gl.

Coming out of the last Ministerial Council meeting we were certainly under the impression that on-farm efficiencies for Victoria and NSW were off the table, productive water was safe and the Commonwealth was looking for urban and industry water to make up the gaps.

From the brief look I have had, the additional criteria still only focus on individual participation and not the broader impacts and/or the market impacts through the reduction to the productive pool.

We commended the NSW and Victorian governments for their much broader criteria, however, we are concerned the Commonwealth’s additional criteria fails to protect communities from on-farm projects outside their valley.

This whole process seems like a set-up to achieve political gain, again at the expense of our communities.

Giving people less than a week’s notice is totally unacceptable.

Those who managed to get their hands on some water will be flat out with hay or preparing for harvest. Those who have a small amount of water for summer cropping will be preparing for that.

We urge everyone to register to attend one of the consultation meetings.

This is not just about farmers. If you have been employed by a farmer or as a result of their produce, if a farmer has ever used your business or if you want to know where your food comes from then get to one of the meetings.

Your community depends on it.

—Shelley Scoullar, chair

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