Council must take lead on Basin Plan collaboration

June 07, 2018

As a community we do not always advocate and lobby our position as well as we could. Another prime example was seen last week.

Neil Andrew, the chair of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, made a rare visit to Deniliquin and met with a range of stakeholders.

If we were to make an impact on his thinking it was essential we had consistency in messaging. Did that happen? No.

Instead we had various groups talking to Mr Andrew, each with their own agenda and sometimes at cross purposes. As a consequence, in typical MDBA fashion Mr Andrew was able to ‘cherry pick’ what he heard and has left without any clear direction on what our community wants or needs. He has also ticked the ‘consultation box’, cutting off criticism that local views and input are not being considered.

We have to do better than that. In the past the Pastoral Times has raised the issue of unity and the need for our leaders to work more collaboratively for the common good. Our inability in this regard was on show again last week.

So what do we do about it?

We believe Edward River Council needs to take the initiative. It is in the best position because it represents our regional community, not one self-interested component.

Only two organisations have the capacity and resources to lead a combined, united community-based approach to issues around the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and its impacts on our region. One is Edward River Council, the other is Murray Irrigation Ltd. For various reasons the latter, as has been proven, is unable to be the instigator of a regional unified front. So that only leaves Council.

We believe Mayor Norm Brennan, who has a broad knowledge of the Basin Plan and its impacts, should call together representatives of various stakeholder groups in the region — MIL, Southern Riverina Irrigators, Speak Up, Murray Valley Private Diverters, Ricegrowers Association, Business Chamber etc.

This group needs to agree on a range of principles surrounding Basin Plan implementation, and the best way to advocate our region’s position.

It needs consensus around a small number of short, sharp messages which are continually repeated when there are discussions with MDBA leaders or government representatives.

The present ad hoc approach will not bring about the changes that are required to limit the Basin Plan impacts on our community.

We encourage the Mayor, his Council and senior staff to take the leadership position that is desperately needed.

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