A fresh approach

By Country News

A visit to the southern Riverina should be the first priority of new Water Minister Melinda Pavey, according to the Speak Up Campaign.

Deputy chairman Lachlan Marshall congratulated Ms Pavey on her appointment, and said Speak Up was keen to have discussions with her as soon as possible.

The group is hoping Ms Pavey will bring a fresh approach to the job which was previously held by Niall Blair.

Ms Pavey, who grew up on a dairy farm, is the Member for Oxley on NSW’s mid-north coast.

Her recent appointment also comes as the agriculture and water portfolios were split in NSW Cabinet, with deputy premier John Barilaro saying it ‘‘allows us to focus on each of them particularly with a greater focus on the drought but more importantly on water’’.

‘‘We know there were some messages from the election ... That’s why there is a focus with the appointment of Melinda Pavey on water,’’ Mr Barilaro said.

Mr Marshall has called on Ms Pavey to denounce Labor’s federal water spokesman Tony Burke, who recently said Labor would remove the cap on water buybacks and return to the original neutrality test, despite a new test agreed to by all basin states in December.

‘‘Buybacks were capped because of the huge damage they were causing to rural communities, and the neutrality test was introduced to support Mr Burke’s 2012 promise of protecting our social and economic fabric,’’ he said.

‘‘In one of the most blatant political stunts in Australian history, he is now prepared to sacrifice rural communities, billions of dollars in export income and upstream environments for political gain in South Australia.’’

Mr Marshall said Ms Pavey should advise Tony Burke that the NSW Government had had enough of its food bowl being sacrificed because South Australia refused to be part of basin plan solutions.

Speak Up has also called for Ms Pavey to immediately address water waste from sending water down the Murray, take a more realistic approach to water allocations so NSW Murray general security food producers are not left on zero allocation, and demand the Federal Government take decisive action to help NSW Murray food producers become part of the drought solution.

‘‘These are all issues we want to discuss with Ms Pavey and we look forward to her visiting the region in the very near future so we can work collaboratively with her on solutions to the problems we face,’’ Mr Marshall said.

‘‘We are hoping Ms Pavey’s elevation to the water ministry marks the start of a fresh, proactive approach.’’