Meeting questioned

By James Bennett

Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins doesn’t believe ‘‘much was achieved’’ after a Regional Strategic Group meeting with Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud last week.

Mr Perkins represented the Berrigan Shire as part of a united voice calling on more action to be taken to address the region’s water issues in Deniliquin on Thursday.

Other groups included in the meeting were Speak Up for Water, Southern Riverina Irrigators, Ricegrowers’ Association, Murray Valley Private Diverters, Dairy Australia and local government.

Mr Perkins believed nothing was promised at the meeting and has come away with little confidence the region would see much resolution.

‘‘A clear message was sent saying these communities can’t bare any more water removal.

‘‘We support the states’ — both NSW and Victoria — position of the neutrality test.

‘‘We’re sick of being collateral damage for political drought and political floods.

‘‘Existing reliability of irrigation water is around 50 per cent, no industry can sustained itself with that reliability.

‘‘We’re over politics and just want them to govern, I’m not confident we’ll see change and we’ve never once been able to get any hange from the Murray Darling Basin Association,’’ Mr Perkins said.

Mr Littleproud is calling on the states to have a mature discussion on the controversial 450 Gl upwater proposal.

He told the Southern Riverina News the 450 Gl remained a concern and at a Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (MinCo) meeting in December there would be discussion to ensure collaboration.

Speak Up spokesperson Shelley Scoullar said Mr Littleproud sympathised with the group as his electorate (Maranoa) had also been impacted by the plan.

‘‘He spoke honestly that it’s a political challenge moving forward but we spoke really frankly to him and spoke about the real issues happening in our community, the severe impacts and the uncertainty of our future.

‘‘We still have a big fight on our hands, my feeling is, if other people within parliament were able to move in our direction then certainly David would support that... it’s not as if he’s against sensible solutions it’s just he needs more support from other members of parliament.’’

‘‘Two years ago we experienced a major flood and we were on 50 per cent water allocation, now we have water in the damns and we’re on zero per cent allocation and that is scary for our future,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

Mr Littleproud said it was important the original plan for the 450 Gl was adhered to, which had a requirement for a neutral positive outcome for rural communities.

‘‘The only piece in the 450 that gives me any comfort is that there was safe guards put in place on the social and economic neutrality test and that’s important we get that right and I intend to work through with the states to get that right.

‘‘That’s why I’ve taken the politics out of this and not calling anyone names because we won’t get good outcomes for these Australians if we don’t have some maturity and leadership.

‘‘NSW and Victoria have put out a framework around the neutrality test and obviously that’s for discussion.

‘‘There will be consultation. . . with communities around that and what it looks like and it’s important we do that.

‘‘At the ministerial council in December we’re going to have to sit down and have that conversation with the states in a mature way.

‘‘With all of us leading and understanding impacts not just in our own states but right across the basin in the decisions we make.

‘‘That’s the important thing and at the last ministerial council we over achieved that. No one was parochial with not understanding the impact on each’s other state and basin,’’ Mr Littleproud said.

The Southern Riverina News asked when NSW would receive a water allocation.

Mr Littleproud said it would be a matter for the state government to decide.

‘‘The NSW government makes those determinations not the Federal Government and that’s for them to make those announcements and not for me.

‘‘I don’t have a lot of power in all this. . . the reality is NSW will make those determinations so will Victoria.’’