I would like the opportunity to publicly refute the claims made by NSW State Member for Farrer and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who has stated that Southern Riverina Irrigators and the Speak Up Campaign want to "abolish or pause the basin plan".
The number of hours of volunteer time that has gone into preparing papers and submissions, options and solutions to fix the basin plan is astronomical.
We want governments to fix a failing plan; pure and simple.
In August 2018 Ms Ley attended a crisis rally at the Deniliquin RSL Club at which there was clear direction, especially from government, that the region needed to develop a united voice on water management and policy.
From this meeting the Murray Regional Strategy Group was formed, and it comprises representation from farming, community, indigenous and local government organisations.
While I cannot speak on behalf of MRSG, it is worth repeating the comment in our joint media release last month from its chair Alan Mathers: “We are reaching out to Ms Ley to work with the MRSG.
“Our region is in crisis through drought, lack of irrigation water and a Basin Plan that is failing our communities.
“It’s a new decade and time for a fresh start; we must all work together, demonstrate strong leadership and commit to securing meaningful long term solutions for sustainable communities within the Murray region of Farrer.
“I think it is in everyone’s interest to put past differences aside, get around the table and work constructively on solutions that can save our farmers and the communities which depend on them....”
This says it all.
Yet the response we get from Ms Ley is to make false claims about our organisations and what we want to achieve.
If the Environment Minister had taken the time to meet with MRSG and Speak Up she would know the "pause" is in reference to further government spending until the more than 35 reports and reviews of the Basin Plan are audited and an attempt made to action at least some of the recommendations.
Since April last year there have been four official letters left unanswered to the NSW Member for Farrer from Speak Up, plus one personal plea two weeks prior to the Convoy to Canberra asking for her to step in to avoid the rally – again unanswered.
After the May election we were even able to organise a group of scientists with concerns about the environmental damage of the basin plan to meet with the minister in Albury.
More than six months after it was sent, we still await a reply.
Last week Speak Up again wrote to Ms Ley asking for her to meet with us, so we can work towards solutions for our communities.
We eagerly await a reply.
Shelley Scoullar, chair, Speak Up Campaign