Call for PM to discuss balance

By Southern Riverina News

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has been asked to meet with community representatives to discuss ways to achieve a more balanced Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

It follows a resolution at an open water forum last month, organised by the Speak Up Campaign.

In a letter to Mr Turnbull, Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar has asked the PM to bring together Premiers and Water Ministers to look at how we can remove political game-playing in Basin Plan implementation, and instead focus on prioritising genuine outcomes.

‘‘The Basin Plan has become an expensive political football, with Southern Basin communities the collateral damage,’’ she said.

‘‘We were promised a balanced plan, but that’s not what is being delivered, as recent socio-economic analysis shows. It’s time to start talking about how this can be addressed.’’

Mrs Scoullar said Speak Up representatives want to meet with the Prime Minister to discuss how we can deliver achievable adjustments to the Basin Plan, ensuring maximum environmental outcomes, but at the same time limiting community impacts.

‘‘The very regions most ideally suited to food and fibre production have seen the most water recovered under the Basin Plan, with subsequent adverse impact to these communities,’’ she said.

‘‘At the same time we are limiting the economic contribution these areas make to our nation, as well as their ability to feed a growing world population.

‘‘This is a flawed approach that needs to be addressed in a sensible manner that prioritises fixing the mistakes we have made, not political ideologies.

‘‘We also need to accept the indisputable facts that volumes of water proposed for delivery to South Australia will not fit down the system without flooding private and public land, and nor will sending huge volumes down the Murray fix problems of the Darling.

‘‘There seems to be a lack of understanding around these issues, as was highlighted at our water forum by scientists, economists and community leaders.’’

Options presented to the Prime Minister will focus on ways to benefit the entire Murray-Darling Basin.

This will include supporting an adaptive and flexible approach to Sustainable Diversion Limit projects, recognising SDL is critical to improving environmental objectives but they must be designed and implemented in conjunction with affected communities and have the ability to incorporate new data and science along the way.

Mrs Scoullar said a copy of the letter to Mr Turnbull had also been sent to the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian and Queensland Premiers and water ministers, as well as local members of Parliament.

‘‘We are hoping to meet soon with our local (Federal) MP Sussan Ley, who has offered to support our efforts to achieve a meeting with the PM.

‘‘Ms Ley, like ourselves, is committed to a balanced Basin Plan that achieves environmental outcomes without social and economic devastation to productive rural communities.’’