It’s hard to keep faith that local concerns are being heard in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan decision making process.
It’s even harder now this community’s direct connection to the decision makers has been taken out of the NSW Murray Valley.
For the past three years Deniliquin and district has had access to a Deniliquin-based Commonwealth Environmental Water Office local engagement officer.
We’re now being told our ‘local’ contact is in either Wagga or Wodonga.
As long-time Basin Plan balance campaigner John Lolicato asks (page 3), ‘how much further from the heat do they want to get?’
There are studies which clearly indicate Deniliquin and the NSW Murray are most heavily impacted by this plan to remove a minimum of 2750 gigalitres of productive water for the environment.
This is recognised by NSW Minister for Water Niall Blair and reportedly also by Murray-Darling Basin Authority senior economic adviser Phil Townsend.
So why do we not get a permanent engagement officer in Deniliquin?
When we asked the CEWO, ‘‘What are the reasons behind Deniliquin not being the permanent location?’’ we received no direct answer.
Unfortunately, it’s the response we have come to expect in this Murray-Darling Basin Plan process — no real response at all.
There are some who believe the decision to take the engagement officer out of Deniliquin is punishment for being so vocal on the flaws associated with the Basin Plan — especially the lack of attention to the consequences of removing productive water from community and the perception that flawed science is being used to determine how and where environmental water is delivered.
But instead of having someone in the community explaining and consulting on their decisions, and experiencing the real life impacts of those decisions on local communities, our local access is moved more than 200km away.
It is not good enough, and does nothing to allay concerns this region’s voice is not being heard.
Serious questions about the CEWO must continue to be raised. In the past, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder David Papps has been less than complimentary in his comments about the Pastoral Times for reporting on aspects of Basin Plan, and the manner in which he has responded to local comment has been of extreme concern.
This latest decision is a further snub of our region from his office.
When in Deniliquin in February, MDBA chief executive officer Phillip Glyde said it was good for his ‘‘people to get out of Canberra’’ and confirmed a regional office for the authority was still high on his agenda.
Another year, another lack of action. It’s now time to deliver.
The MDBA must step up to the plate and commit to opening this regional office in Deniliquin and attempt to restore confidence that regions most impacted by its work matter and will be heard.