The Southern Riverina Irrigators say the victory of Helen Dalton in the seat of Murray during the NSW election is ‘‘the first stage in a plan to rebuild the Southern Riverina as the nation’s greatest food-producing region’’.
Chair Chris Brooks thanked his members for supporting the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate, despite some members being against the premise.
‘‘We took the unusual step of endorsing Helen for two reasons,’’ he said.
‘‘Firstly, her immense knowledge of the complex water issue, and secondly the ongoing refusal of NSW Coalition members, including the incumbent Member for Murray, to take decisive steps to fix obvious problems.
‘‘When I took on the role of SRI chair my sole objective was to get more affordable and reliable water for the hard-working farmers I represent.
‘‘It has been taken away by poor water policy and poor water management, and this has to be reversed.
‘‘I will take all the necessary steps to achieve my objective, and as recent water reform under the basin plan is all about playing politics, and nothing to do with sensible water policy, I believed we had to start playing the political game.’’
Mr Brooks said the SRI would lobby Mrs Dalton on issues like floodplain harvesting and was willing to take the risk when it came to backing a candidate from a minor party.
Announcing its water policy on Friday, the SFF said it would push for a federal royal commission and a five-year pause on the basin plan; as well as full standardised metering and inspections across the basin; and an audit, measure and evaluation of environmental water.
The party also announced its plans to call for a review of water transfer policies, flood plain harvesting regulation and irrigator water right protections.
‘‘(Mrs Dalton) is a very active water warrior in our area and water is the one single issue affecting the area of Murray,’’ Mr Brooks said.
‘‘Being in state parliament, she is limited to what she can do with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
‘‘We will take our chances with that (backing a minor party candidate).
‘‘The Coalition is not listening to us and not doing anything for us and I think the smaller independents (or minor parties) are going to win more (seats).’’
The SRI is not the only water group that is pleased with the result; Speak Up said the result was a ‘‘morale boost’’ for the region.
‘‘We understand there will not be immediate change, but the general view is that Helen will fight very hard for her community and that’s what we feel has been lacking,’’ Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said.
Despite backlash from some members in backing Mrs Dalton, Mr Brooks said SRI would be backing independent candidate Kevin Mack in May’s federal election in the seat of Farrer if the majority of the group voted in favour as they did for Mrs Dalton in the NSW election.