Water

Call for royal commission

By Alana Christensen

Southern Riverina Irrigators has called for a royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, saying the current plan lacks transparency and accountability.

The delegation of southern Riverina locals from SRI, Voices4Farrer and Murray Regional Strategy Group met with an adviser for Federal Water Minister David Littleproud and Shadow Minister for Environment and Water Tony Burke’s chief of staff last week to voice their concerns.

SRI chair Chris Brooks, who represents 1800 irrigators in the southern Riverina, said the collective demanded a royal commission to review and redraft a more workable, fair and reasonable basin plan.

‘‘We simply need the basin plan to be more acceptable to all parties within the basin — for irrigators, environmentalists and the indigenous,’’ Mr Brooks said.

‘‘The overall lack of transparency, alleged corruption, mismanagement and lack of accountability that’s occurring must be addressed with a total overhaul, to benefit local communities, indigenous and environmental groups.’’

Mr Brooks said a royal commission would provide a suitable platform for people, businesses, organisations and government departments from Victoria, NSW, South Australia and Queensland to ‘‘lay all issues out on the table once and for all’’.

He stressed the politics of water must be removed to allow for common sense, productivity and the long-term viable protection of the existing environment.

‘‘No-one is getting any value from the basin plan in its current form,’’ he said.

Deniliquin businesswoman Vicki Meyer said a royal commission would ‘‘stop the rot’’ associated with the basin plan.

‘‘We need to stop the rot — not just by stopping the rotting fish events happening, which is a byproduct of the basin plan; this is a national problem concerning the greatest human need: water,’’ she said.

‘‘First and foremost we need accountability into the triple bottom line because quite clearly, our rural communities have become refugees of the system.

‘‘So many people are suffering from the lack of water in our communities. We have clear mental health issues in communities that are a byproduct with a failing health system that’s exacerbating it.

‘‘We need a royal commission to achieve transparency and accountability in what’s happening.’’