Speaking up on water issues

By Country News

More than 50 people travelled from various parts of southern NSW, northern Victoria and the Goulburn Valley to attend the inaugural meeting of the Speak Up Campaign at Deniliquin last Thursday.

They included representatives from local government, irrigation and farming organisations, community groups and interested farmers.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said the meeting discussed a range of issues relating to the need to find a balance that shared water resources effectively to achieve environmental outcomes, but with limited detriment to food and fibre producers and the regional communities that relied on them for prosperity.

Guest speaker was world-renowned river scientist John Conallin, who spoke about the best ways to encourage native fish breeding, including the need for effective European carp control.

Mrs Scoullar, in her chair’s report, covered various activities undertaken by Speak Up including development of its Balancing the Basin Plan document, and its successful water forum.

She said the organisation had been able to get coverage of issues, particularly relating to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, in a wide range of regional and national media.

‘‘At every opportunity we highlight in a positive way the assets of the region which are going to waste — we have fertile soils, gravity-feed modern irrigation systems close to storages, established transport and value-adding facilities close to port, plus energetic, passionate and motivated farmers who want to produce high quality, clean, green food and fibre.

‘‘But it is essential that we also recognise and acknowledge the truth — and this includes negatives of the basin plan such as the social, economic and environmental impacts on the communities around us.

‘‘Governments do not always get it right — pink batts and school halls are two examples of this,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘So we have two choices. We can go along with the basin plan, which may suit some who are asset building and thinking of retirement.

‘‘Or we can speak up for those who want to get water onto our farms and be productive, by highlighting the flaws and mistruths in the basin plan and the Water Act.

‘‘If we continue down the path of recovering the proposed 450Gl of up-water, our region as we know it will be lost, and for no good reason.

‘‘With persistence and determination, we will continue to ‘speak up’.’’