Ball now in PM’s court

By Southern Riverina News

A delegation which met Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week is hoping he will intervene in the local water crisis.

The meeting with the PM was organised following a letter which last month described as a ‘desperate plea’ and signed by 15 community, farming, indigenous and local government groups.

It was coordinated by the Speak Up Campaign, which has since worked with Member for Farrer Sussan Ley to have the meeting organised.

The delegation was led by Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar and also included deputy chair Lachlan Marshall, as well as the chair of Murray Regional Strategy Group Alan Mathers.

They met with Prime Minister Morrison, Ms Ley, Water Minister David Littleproud and government advisers.

Mrs Scoullar said Mr Morrison was greatly concerned about the crisis being faced in our region.

‘‘He listened intently and showed genuine interest in finding out more about some of the information we provided. There is no doubt he was not aware of the severity of the impact being felt in our region due to flaws in the Basin Plan.’’

Mr Mathers said the delegation presented four key messages to Mr Morrison, after highlighting that the current water crisis in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria is not caused by the drought.

He said these messages were:

1.The Federal Government needs to declare a national emergency to ensure water allocations are made available in the Southern Basin to underpin the 2019-20 food producing season.

2.The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is not working due to policy failure and bureaucratic mismanagement. The Basin Plan needs to be paused, reviewed and re-set.

3.At present the largest and most efficient gravity feed irrigation system in the world is sitting idle, while water has been poured down the Murray River at minor flood level, wasting an estimated additional 300,000 megalitres, to meet demand in South Australia.

4.Communities are so damaged through job losses, economic decline and failure of bureaucracy to acknowledge its errors and fix the problems, that the people took out their frustration at the ballot box in the NSW State election.

‘‘Mr Morrison recognised the complexities around water sharing and acknowledged the Basin Plan would need much further investigation on his behalf. He seemed open to pursing this,’’ Mr Mathers said.

‘‘However, with the election seemingly only weeks away parliament will not be sitting until after May, which makes decision making difficult until we have a new government.’’

Mr Marshall said the Prime Minister was concerned at the volume of lost production not only to this region, but to the national economy, due to lack of water allocation.

‘‘He listened carefully and I am confident he now understands that water policy and management in this part of the basin is becoming a national disaster. He realises something needs to be done.’’

The Prime Minister was also handed a heartfelt letter from Mr Marshall’s 11 year-old daughter Ella, written at her own initiative when she realised her father was going to visit the Prime Minister.

‘‘It was an honest, raw account from a young girl about how the lack of water is affecting herself, her family and her friends,” Mr Marshall said.

After meeting with the Prime Minister, the local delegation had further discussions with Ms Ley and an adviser from the Water Minister’s office about taking immediate action that will see water made available to the region’s food producers.

Mrs Scoullar said they were very appreciative of the opportunity to highlight these issues to Mr Morrison, especially being such a busy time on the morning after the Budget was handed down.