No trust in basin plan

By Alana Christensen

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan continues to be plagued by a lack of trust, with farmers, environmentalists and even Federal Water Minister David Littleproud voicing concerns.

Stories of distrust of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, concerns about the socio-economic impacts of recovering 450Gl of ‘up-water’ and a general angst around the basin plan were all shared with Mr Littleproud at a public forum in Shepparton last Wednesday.

Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum said it was a long running issue.

‘‘This is a bit of a trend. David, the message cannot be clearer from this room that your department, the people in your department dealing with water are not friends of this area. We can’t trust them,’’ he said.

‘‘This is a worry for us.’’

The long-running mistrust has only been fuelled by recent consultations with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, according to Katunga dairy farmer Daryl Hoey.

The department has recently been in regional towns, including Shepparton and Deniliquin, to discuss the social and economic impact test which will govern water recovery in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Communities were given just one day’s notice of the consultations, with locals unhappy with the lack of notice, information and detail.

‘‘My question is: when are you going to pull your department into line?’’ Mr Hoey said.

‘‘The department has been going through the regions putting together expressions of interest and trying to justify why these regions should be putting up these programs,’’ he said.

‘‘So why don’t we let MINCO (Ministerial Council) do its job, let the states come to an agreement? The department (has been) trying to run roughshod over this basin plan for way too long.’’

Mr Littleproud had previously slammed his department and told the staff to return to areas where people felt they had not been heard.

He extended the consultation by two weeks saying they had given ‘‘three parts of bugger all’’ notice.

‘‘I told them ‘you’ll do it again until you do it right’,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘They need to give you the respect you deserve ... I’m not overly chuffed about (what’s happened).’’

Although expressing some surprise there were not more questions about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said he ‘‘didn’t take much new out of (the meeting) at all’’.

‘‘It was a bit of same old same old and really quite subdued on the water front,’’ Mr Anderson said.

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