When Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud rolled into the region last week, it’s likely he would have known what to expect.
He had just arrived from a visit further south to another south basin community, the Goulburn Valley, where irrigators, local government and local water leadership aired a similar message to the one he heard in Deniliquin last Thursday.
That the region is approaching a “tipping point,” the “edge of a cliff”, and that no further water can be recovered from the system without further socio economic impacts.
These messages were coupled with loud and clear calls for criteria, or tests, to determine where a controversial 450 Gl is to be recovered.
The impatience and frustration was palpable.
And the sentiment that the community feels like they have not been listened to completely understandable.
Mr Littleproud himself moved to admit concerns around the 450 Gl and the level of recent consultation, including the amount of notice given to communities.
As to where the “mature” discussion between states hoped for at the next ministerial council meeting gets to is yet to be seen.
But we strongly hope that a mutual recognition can be demonstrated for the impacts various basin communities are dealing with.
For now, we commend Mr Littleproud for paying a visit, and for listening to the concerns locally.
It is now fair to say he is under no allusions as to the feelings of this part of the country about what is needed.
And it is now some decisive action that is needed.
This will not be easy. Especially concerning what is widely regarded to be the “elephant in the room”; the 450 Gl.
On the one hand, there has been some assurance that where significantly negative socio economic impacts are concerned, that would be taken into account.
Parcel this together with comments from communities like Shepparton and Deniliquin, both of whom’s stakeholders have done some work themselves around an appropriate criteria — both are saying clearly that no more water can safely be recovered from the heir regions — and questions arise about steps forward.
For now, we thank Mr Littleproud for his visit, especially after hearing that communities had felt like they had not been properly heard nor consulted by the department. And we look forward to seeing the next steps.
The loud voice of locals on this issue is to be commended. With your strong advocacy and clear messaging, it is fair to imagine the department is understanding of the feelings of Riverina basin communities.