A visit to the NSW Murray region by new water minister Melinda Pavey has been promised by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, with locals saying the government needs to understand the current situation.
It was a move celebrated by Speak Up campaign chair Shelley Scoullar, who said the new water minister must understand the complexities around water management in the region.
‘‘Northern basin issues and southern basin issues are poles apart. While the north is being devastated primarily by drought, we are being devastated by water wastage,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.
‘‘Over the past summer our region should have been thriving. We should have been in a position to grow fodder for drought-affected stock further north, and continued growing the food and fibre our nation needs.
‘‘Instead our system was virtually idle, while water flooded into the forest and went to waste because authorities tried to pour too much through the system.’’
Mrs Scoullar was among a handful of people invited to meet with the premier and Deputy Premier John Barilaro during their Deniliquin visit.
‘‘We know our region needs to work collaboratively with the state government to fix the problems which exist. We need to do a lot more to explain the impact of poor water management on our region.
‘‘I pointed out to the premier on Saturday that the job losses at the Deniliquin Rice Mill represented one per cent of the local population. If you applied the same percentage to Sydney, that would be nearly 50000 people.
“What sort of uproar would there be if 50000 people in Sydney lost their jobs? Yet in our region it is allowed to happen with barely a whimper, and this figure does not include the numerous others who would normally be employed in agriculture and support industries.
‘‘We also have increasing problems with mental health issues in the farming community as individuals struggle with the uncertainty.
‘‘Governments need to realise the consequences of their decisions, accept they have made mistakes and take positive steps to work with us and fix them.’’
She said it was imperative that Ms Pavey worked with local government, community and irrigator groups to develop solutions which existed and were waiting for government action.