Water policy will be a key focus at a Murray by-election candidates’ forum to be held in Deniliquin.
It has been organised by the Speak Up campaign and will be at the Deniliquin Golf Club this Sunday from 6pm.
The Nationals candidate Austin Evans, Labor’s Michael Kidd, Independents Brian Mills and Peter Robinson, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Helen Dalton and The Greens’ Ray Goodlass have all confirmed they will attend.
The Murray by-election, following the resignation of Adrian Piccoli, will be on Saturday, October 14.
Speak Up spokesperson Shelley Scoullar said while water would be high on the agenda at the forum, other important issues likely to be discussed include health, education and the future of the region’s timber industry.
In relation to water, Mrs Scoullar said the forum would “provide an opportunity for candidates to tell us how their party will help increase productivity and confidence in the Murray Valley’’.
‘‘Our region needs good policy around water, which drives our economies, creates jobs and has to be managed in a way that protects our environment,’’ she said.
‘‘We all know the Murray Valley has been hit hard by political decisions and other deals around water, mainly the Murray Darling Basin Plan. The next week provides the region and the candidates with a unique opportunity to tell us how they are going to find the balance which so far has been sadly lacking.’’
Mrs Scoullar said with political willpower there are still options within the implementation of the Basin Plan to ensure the Murray Valley does not become the easy target for further removal of productive water.
‘‘Our farmers are efficient water users and our region has fertile, productive soils. We also have one of the world’s most efficient gravity feed irrigation systems. It is all currently being under-utilised and is at further risk with the Basin Plan.’’
Mrs Scoullar said in the present circumstances the Murray Valley needs an elected representative who will stand up for the electorate and not ‘‘toe the party line’’.
‘‘Speak Up does not support the 450 gigalitre upwater; it cannot come from the Murray Valley and cannot be delivered by the Murray River.
‘‘The process involving the SDL projects has been unacceptable, and emphasises that we need someone to help lobby for changes to ensure a genuine adaptive process is developed. We believe every candidate should give an unwavering commitment that their party will, under no circumstances, support the 450 gigalitre upwater. Nothing else is acceptable.’’
Mrs Scoullar said another important issue was the proposed Deniliquin Airport upgrade, which can turn the region into a freight hub, generate employment and provide a significant economic boost.
She said the forum will give voters the opportunity to meet the candidates, listen to an address from each candidate and ask questions. A barbecue tea will be available. For further information email [email protected]