Dalton says plan a ‘disaster’

By Country News

Water was put on the agenda of the NSW Parliament on May 8 when NSW State Member for Murray Helen Dalton made her inaugural speech.

Mrs Dalton, whose campaign heavily focused on water issues, blamed government for the ‘‘disaster’’ she says is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

‘‘The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a disaster for regional communities,’’ she said.

‘‘From the very beginning, government attitude was to tame us, blame us, blame each other, lock us out of the conversation and not listen.

‘‘Now after billions of tax dollars and millions of fish dying, governments still refuse to accept responsibility.

‘‘The political scramble for water has left the Murray electorate in a desperate state with dairy herds disbanded and rice priced out of production.

‘‘Our agricultural diversity has always been our strength but with water flowing to the highest or most desperate bidders, it leaves communities, contractors, process and transport companies hung out to dry.

‘‘Farmers are going bankrupt on zero per cent water allocation.

‘‘But at the same time, wealthy corporations are making tens of millions of dollars by trading ghost water.’’

Mrs Dalton, who was publicly backed by Southern Riverina Irrigators in the March election, made it clear to her colleagues what farmers in her electorate were facing and even invited them to the electorate to see for themselves the ‘‘wastage, loss and damage that is occurring’’.

‘‘Irrigators, who have fed Australians for a century, are being sent broke,’’ she said.

‘‘Water prices are soaring. Food industries are shrinking, local food companies are being sold offshore or shut down, regional towns are dying and many farmers are quitting agriculture for good.

‘‘It’s these forgotten Australians who have put me in parliament today.

‘‘Water is the lifeblood of the Murray electorate and it was the most important issue during this last election.

‘‘Our region is the agricultural mecca for NSW. All wealth, whether you like it or not, comes from the earth.

‘‘I was taught in economics that land, labour, capital, and enterprise were the inputs of production.

‘‘Back then, water was a given — but not any more. It’s now a tradeable commodity.’’

Mrs Dalton also mentioned Barmah-Millewa Forest, saying it ‘‘has been inundated for months as the river operators try to push more water across the South Australian border’’.