Local voices on basin panel

By Country News

Two Goulburn Murray region people will serve on an independent panel looking into the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on regional communities.

David McKenzie from Shepparton and Bruce Simpson from Deniliquin have been appointed to the body investigating social and economic conditions.

The panel was announced in Mildura last week.

Federal Water Resources Minister David Littleproud said the panel discussed how it would deliver the report, the need for community consultation, flagged delivery of a preliminary report in December and its desire for a northern basin representative.

‘‘Government needs to know exactly what the effects of its policies are — that’s just common sense,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘The independent panel will look at how delivering the basin plan affects local communities and how to assist them.

‘‘It will also look at how communities are changing and what their future needs might be.

‘‘The plan is not perfect as you’d expect when several governments have to agree, but it’s the very best we’re going to get and for certainty in rural communities it must be delivered.

‘‘Robbie Sefton has a strong background in regional, rural and agricultural issues and she will lead the panel.

‘‘She has been joined by independent experts from across the basin states who can help basin governments understand the stresses on local communities, including indigenous communities.

‘‘It will also come up with strategies to support communities to adapt to change and build resilience,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

‘‘The panel is working on its terms of reference and will visit and consult with basin communities.

‘‘I’ve asked for a preliminary report by the end of the year so we can take action to build stronger local economies.

‘‘The panel has also indicated it wants to improve its coverage in the northern basin and I agree.

‘‘I will be looking to announce an additional panellist in the near future.’’

David McKenzie is managing director of the Opteon Property Group, and co-convenor of the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Forum.

He is also chair of the Victorian Government’s Regional Development Advisory Committee and the Goulburn Regional Partnership.

He is a board member of Goulburn-Murray Water, previous director of North East Water (chair) and Goulburn Valley Water.

Bruce Simpson has spent more than 40 years in irrigated agriculture with experience in planning, management, practice, water policy, corporate governance and community.

He owns and operates a farm advisory business, along with a family farming business north of Deniliquin.

He has a long record of involvement with committees and boards in the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions.

He is a graduate and Fellow of the Australian Rural Leadership Program and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Other panel members are chair Robbie Sefton, Deborah Peterson, Rene Woods and Andrew Kassebaum.

■Information on the research and how to get involved can be found on the MDBA website.