Communities from across northern Victoria and southern NSW will come together next month at a forum to talk about their future.
A range of speakers and panels will discuss common issues which are affecting the prosperity of numerous towns and industries.
The forum is titled ‘Uniting the Southern Basin’ and is an initiative of the Speak Up Campaign, with support from individuals and organisations throughout the Goulburn and Murrumbidgee Valleys, and as far west as Mildura.
It is being described as an open water forum to consider ‘what is happening to our communities?’, ‘why is it happening?’ and ‘what can we do about it?’
It will be held at the Moama Bowling Club on Friday, April 13 from 11am.
Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said Southern Basin communities are frustrated that they are the collateral damage from an unbalanced Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
‘‘The Southern Basin has been the hardest hit by the plan – we’ve done the heavy lifting. It is time to come together and ensure our survival,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.
The forum will have three key topics – community impacts, environment and politics.
Each will have keynote speakers followed by a panel discussion, facilitated by former National Irrigators Council Chief Executive Officer Tom Chesson.
Panel members will address how we can maximise environmental outcomes with the water already recovered, and what measures need to be put in place to ensure it provides the best outcomes.
Mrs Scoullar said more information on the speaker list will be available as the forum approaches, but it will include prominent wetland history expert Professor Peter Gell, a renowned international river expert, community leaders from across the Southern Basin, and a prominent socio-economic researcher.
‘‘We will discuss the present situation with implementation of the Basin Plan, including its impact on communities and the adverse environmental affects that too many people do not want to acknowledge.
‘‘Importantly, we will also look at a range of solutions which we hope can later be presented to governments. The aim is not to admonish the Basin Plan, but rather to look at how it can be more effective.’’
Mrs Scoullar said too many governments, including the Federal Government and Opposition, appear more interested in their political survival and environmental votes than delivering a common-sense Basin Plan that protects both the environment and rural communities.
‘‘Fortunately we have seen a show of strength in recent times from the New South Wales and Victorian Governments, who have threatened to withdraw from the Basin Plan as their protest against political games.
‘‘Our communities understand that we need a plan — but we want one that is fair and balanced, which we’re not getting.
‘‘We also want acknowledgement of its adverse impacts. A recent MDBA study showed huge loss of population and job opportunities in many food producing areas. We know the Basin Plan is the major contributor, but there is still a propensity to hide the real problems amid motherhood statements like ‘it’s just one of a range of issues’.
‘‘We want an honest approach to the plan so taxpayers are aware that their $13 billion investment is not the environmental panacea that some people are claiming.’’