In an effort to make the government sit up and listen, four southern NSW mayors are using “strength in numbers” to tackle concerns surrounding the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s management.
Murrumbidgee’s mayor Ruth McRae, Edward River’s Norm Brennan, Murray River’s Chris Bilkey and Berrigan Shire’s Matt Hannan have come together to “protect their communities” from a loss of jobs and regional prosperity.
Concerns include Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) approach to the present drought crisis and the government’s “inability to effectively manage water resources.”
Cr McRae said the current management of water resources must come under serious scrutiny, especially with the “disastrous” prospect of sustainable diversion limit (SDL) adjustment projects going ahead for the Yanco Creek. This would see the installation of a regulator at Yanco Offtake.
“We feel we are being slapped around from every angle,” Cr McRae explained.
“With lots of historical knowledge, current and well-informed people, this marriage of good talent, relevant information and community engagement should see a sane and rational decision made.”
She says rather than giving in to the seemingly “divide and conquer” method, using “strength in numbers” will hopefully give a breath of life back into community sustainability.
“We are hoping that with our collective strength, by coming to the table engaged and respectful manner, we hope that same respect is returned by the people who are making these decisions.”
A recent publication of an opinion column titled ‘Basin plan eases drought pain’ inflamed the four mayors’ concerns.
MDBA’s Chief Executive Phillip Glyde spoke about making tough decisions, terming it a “challenging season,” saying he had been conscious of “operating the system as efficiently as possible.”
“We have to improve it [water management] to protect our communities, and it appears Mr Glyde needs to develop a greater appreciation for this indisputable fact,” Cr McRae said.
The mayors’ hope their plea will be heard before the water minister meeting, scheduled for December 14 in Melbourne, where the issues from the MDBA community consultation held in November will be discussed.
The four mayors say the then water minister and former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised farmers and regional communities the Basin Plan would mean water reliability for food producers, especially in low rainfall periods.
The mayors claim the “total opposite has happened.”