The Murray Regional Strategy Group is hoping more can be done for struggling communities in the NSW Murray region.
The group — which represents a broad range of community, local government and food producing organisations — said some of the initiatives from December's Ministerial Council meeting of water ministers had positive intent.
However, it said more needed to be done to improve management of precious water resources and to stop the wastage that had plagued good management in 2019.
Group chair Alan Mathers said while the drought and dwindling water supplies had grabbed the public’s attention, Australia as a nation was deliberately dumping scarce fresh water into the sea (via the South Australian Lower Lakes) without any thought as to where our next meal would come from.
“The next generation of younger farmers are being driven out through the lack of any government policy to ensure that Australia can feed itself, as we have no food security strategy in Australia,” Mr Mathers said.
“It is also extremely difficult for our region’s communities, as they see their economic prosperity being so unnecessarily sacrificed.
“We had hoped the MinCo meeting would take more decisive steps to improve water management but can only hope this becomes a greater priority in 2020.”
Mr Mathers said the group believed Murray-Darling Basin Inspector-General Mick Keelty must have the powers to identify ways to support food producers and communities through more efficient use of water resources.
“If this means some changes to the way parcels of water are defined, especially those allocated via archaic rules, then we have to look at these sensible solutions.
“Australia as a nation should seriously question the validity of filling lakes at the end of the system with precious fresh water from Hume and Dartmouth dams.
“Apart from turning them into a haven for carp breeding, we are losing massive amounts of water through evaporation and transmission losses.”
Mr Mathers said the group supported the strong stance taken by NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey, especially her commitment that NSW would not contribute to the additional 450 Gl in water recovery targets.
Also welcomed was the NSW stance on a review of the Lower Lakes to further examine their status as an estuarine or freshwater system, and a reassessment of the deliverability of the Sustainable Diversion Limit projects and their contribution of 605 Gl.
“Ms Pavey stated «« this week that »» the needs of regional NSW communities had been ignored for too long by the Federal Government and South Australia,” Mr Mathers said.
“We have been trying to make this point for a long time, and it has been reinforced in the Independent Social and Economic Impacts report.
“Many of the problems being experienced across the basin could be resolved with a more nationalistic approach from South Australia, though we are realistic enough to realise that the leadership required for this is not likely to happen.
“We therefore need the Federal Government to work with Ms Pavey and NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro to fix the problems in the NSW Murray region.”