New Year must include rural and regional focus

January 02, 2018

The tradition of ringing in the new year is about more than just a party.

It’s an opportunity to look at the highlights, and lowlights, of the past 12 months and look ahead to the possibilities of the next 12 months.

In 2017 much happened in Deniliquin and district that we could look back on with a fond and positive focus.

For example more than $19 million in developments were approved for the Edward River Council area in the first 11 months last year.

Much of that is with thanks to the long awaited distribution of two major cash incentive programs — $3 million from the Murray Darling Basin Regional Economic Diversification Programme to reward the NSW Government from signing up to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and $10 million from the Stronger Communities fund deposited into Edward River Council account once formed through a merger of the former Deniliquin and Conargo Shire Councils.

Regardless of where or how the money was delivered to us, it has prompted a development program that will boost out socio-economic potential.

But there’s a few overdue tasks that still threaten to undermine all the good that’s being pursued for our district community.

It’s a new year, and we call on our governments — both state and federal — to make some New Year’s resolutions that will address these issues once and for all.

We need the NSW Government to deliver on commitments made by former Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli and his successor Austin Evans to return sustainable commercial timber harvesting to the Murray Valley National Park between Deniliquin and Moama.

We also need the NSW Government to act to repair consistently inaccurate population predictions which show the Edward River Council area is in a steady and steep decline, despite 2016 Census statistics showing almost a five per cent increase in the Deniliquin population.

The NSW Department of Planning and Environment must also immediately act to change its current population for the ERC area of 8,650 to match the 8,851 listed in the Census.

The third chief issue we need addressed has been on our resolution list for a number of years — a Murray-Darling Basin Plan that truly achieves a triple bottom line (positive outcomes for the environment, economy and social fabric) result without any third party impacts.

This should not be a monumental task, but it cannot be achieved until the Federal Government, Murray-Darling Basin Authority and other parties listen to the food producers who will be impacted by their decisions, and work collaboratively on solutions.

Helping to achieve these goals is a New Year’s resolution for our team at the Pastoral Times. We will continue to highlight actions needed, working always in the best long term interest of our region.

We call on Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley and NSW Member for Murray Austin Evans to make it their resolution to convince their governments to take appropriate action that supports rural and regional Australia and resolves challenges being faced by our region. To achieve this, they must persuade their political leaders to understand and appreciate regional complexities, rather than making decisions based on city votes, which past actions would suggest carry more political weight.

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