National political events appear to be behind a decision to cancel a meeting of Murray-Darling Basin water ministers, due to be held later this month.
With the Queensland Government in caretaker mode due to an election and Federal Water Minister Barnaby Joyce out of a job after the High Court found he held dual citizenship, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said the meeting was deferred to a date to be fixed.
Ministers were expected to look at controversial water savings proposals suggested by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has been scathing in her criticism of the delay.
A crucial Goulburn Valley water summit, scheduled to be held in Tatura this week, has been postponed because of the cancellation of the ministers’ meeting.
The Tatura meeting was set to lobby governments on the needs of irrigation-dependent economies around the southern end of the basin before any major changes could be agreed upon by federal and state water ministers.
‘‘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 with former Deputy Prime Minister and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce contesting a by-election. The government is clearly struggling to meet its responsibilities.
‘‘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.’’
Federal Member for Murray Damian Drum seemingly confirmed that the ministerial council meeting would be called off due to the current difficulties surrounding Mr Joyce.
‘‘The meeting has been postponed for the middle of December after the New England by-election and the recommendation from the authority is handed to the minister’s office,’’ the Nationals’ Mr Drum said.
Goulburn Murray Irrigation District Water Leadership Forum co-chair David McKenzie said the cancelling of the ministerial council meeting and uncertainty over the future of the basin was hurting the community.
‘‘The economy is more diversified than it has ever been before but there is no doubt that it is still entirely underpinned by irrigation,’’ Mr McKenzie said.
‘‘People that are in town that aren’t actually irrigators themselves should understand that this is a really big deal.’’