Drought conversation shared with the PM

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Local concerns relating to the drought and water policy were relayed directly to Prime Minister Scott Morrison last Tuesday evening.

Briefing the PM on the issues raised was Coordinator General for Drought Major General Stephen Day, who was appointed to the Joint Agency Drought Taskforce last year.

Maj Gen Day visited both Deniliquin and Finley last Tuesday, meeting with local government representatives, farming and community groups, individual affected farmers, business leaders and even students.

‘‘The main purpose of coming here was to understand, exactly, the impacts,’’ he said.

‘‘There are roughly 96 council areas being supported through the government’s drought program. I try and visit at least one of them each week.

‘‘This was my first time to this area.

‘‘I want to make sure your voice is being heard in Canberra — I speak with the Prime Minister each night.

‘‘I am checking how people are going and seeing if there is anything more we can be doing.’’

Maj Gen Day said the series of discussions he had in the local area on Wednesday did focus on the drought as a whole, but he said overwhelmingly local concerns were more specifically about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and its consequences.

‘‘There are community concerns about the pace of change brought about by the Basin Plan, and that the drought has exacerbated the circumstances,’’ he said.

‘‘The other thing I noticed, and no-one brought it up with me specifically, was the psychological impact of seeing the water flow by when they can’t take any, which adds to the stress.

‘‘One other key message is that some farmers said to me that while it is difficult they have experienced this before, and ‘some of us are doing okay’. Hope is important.’’

After an initial meeting with community members at the Deniliquin Exchange Hotel, Maj Gen Day had dinner with Murray Irrigation Limited board members at the Deniliquin RSL Club.

Earlier in the day, he had toured some of the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program modernisation project sites with Murray Irrigation chair Phil Snowden and Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley.

Mr Snowden said the issues raised at the dinner were complex but all in context of the drought.

‘‘We had a dinner with individuals from the different aspects and industries of our region, businesses and the general community to show and understand the impact of the drought,’’ he said.

‘‘By far and large the biggest impact discussed is the zero per cent water allocation in this region.

‘‘We should have had a 15 per cent allocation this season. That is the general feeling, and the the fact that we didn’t raised a lot of issues with the community.’’