The cancellation of this month’s meeting of Murray Darling Basin Water Ministers is yet another failure of governments to address the concerns of basin communities, says Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed.
The water ministers were due to consider key environmental projects as well as the Ernst Young review on the recovery of a further 450GL of water at the November 24 meeting, which has been cancelled at the request of the Federal Government.
Ms Sheed said the meeting would have been a watershed moment for communities to influence the decisions that would affect their future.
“I’m very disappointed that the Federal Government has taken this approach to what is such a time sensitive issue,” Ms Sheed said.
“They have been distracted from the running of the country by high court citizenship challenges and with former Deputy Prime Minister and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce now contesting a by-election, the government is clearly struggling to meet its responsibilities.
“Meanwhile, our irrigation communities will continue to hurt until something is done to restore industry certainty and faith in the Murray Darling Basin Plan.”
Ms Sheed said a Southern Basin Water Summit due to be held next Friday at Tatura which was designed to lobby governments to take immediate action to mitigate damage in basin communities would now be postponed.
“We have had such a positive response to the water summit and a real consensus being built around a united Southern Basin voice for the first time but no one is listening,” Ms Sheed said.
“The MDBA and the Federal Government haven’t been listening, they’re still not listening, and now they’re not even going to be in the same room to listen to each other.
“We don’t want to postpone our meeting, but it seems to be our only option. Our message is far too important to the future of our regions to risk not being heard while the decision-makers are so distracted.”
Ms Sheed said there was ample evidence from reputable reports which showed the serious impact of the Murray Darling Basin Plan on farming towns and communities throughout the Southern Basin.
“The ABC’s Four Corners report brought many of the issues facing basin communities to the fore, but the problems regarding governance, technical modelling and the socio-economic repercussions go much deeper,” Ms Sheed said.
“Too many questions have been raised in the numerous inquiries, reviews and evaluations to keep forging blindly ahead without a solid understanding of the reality on the ground.
“We might have postponed the summit, but we will not let this lie.”
The Southern Basin Water Summit had been convened to discuss key issues including:
– an overview of the environmental gains;
– a review of the completed socio-economic studies and their relationship to the recovery of the additional 450GL;
– the failure of the Murray Darling Basin Authority to effectively monitor the Plan and ensure compliance;
– questions around the latest cap compliance report and the actual amount of water in the system;
– unresolved issues regarding constraints projects; and
– opportunities for moving forward.
Riahn Smith 0419 138 978│firstname.lastname@example.org