Local irrigators are working their way through the federal Senate in an effort to educate its members on the negative impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and encourage them to seek more balance in water policy.
Southern Riverina Irrigators this week hosted Greens’ South Australian Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in a tour of Deniliquin and district.
Over the next few weeks, they expect the same messages will be shared with Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick and federal Labor water spokesperson Terri Butler when they also visit the district.
SRI chair Chris Brooks said they had previously hosted One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson, who he said pledged support for calls for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be paused.
Mr Brooks said while there are some matters on which they did not agree, he felt there were some areas where the desires of Senator Hanson-Young and basin stakeholders aligned.
‘‘She agreed the river management is a disaster, and that the Murray Darling Basin Authority is to blame for that,’’ Mr Brooks said.
‘‘She agrees that we need to stop the money going out to so called efficiency projects until it can be assessed by the auditor-general. She also agrees with a pause on the basin plan, and a Royal Commission.
‘‘We did, however, agree to disagree on the Lower Lakes and the barrages, but maybe we can work on those next time.’’
Deniliquin-based NSW Senator Perin Davey has commended Senator Hanson-Young for visiting the NSW Murray region to meet with farmers.
‘‘I think the more people from Parliament we can get to our region to show them how productive we are and how much potential we have, the better,” Senator Davey said.
‘‘I know she met with Southern Riverina Irrigators and I would be happy to work with her on the proposals they have raised with me about how to improve the Basin Plan.
‘‘SRI has expressed concerns about the environmental damage caused to the riverbank and channel capacity through the narrow Barmah Choke, which is the only pathway for flows to get to South Australia when the Darling River is disconnected, as it is now.
‘‘I would be happy to sit down with Senator Hanson-Young to look at the interstate water sharing arrangements to see if they should be revised to include arrangements for relaxing the fixed volumes for South Australia in these extreme dry circumstances to protect our riparian environments along the river.
‘‘I also know that, like Senator Hanson-Young, SRI wants an immediate end to all water recovery programs. I also support an end to water being taken out of production and being quarantined for the environment.’’
Senator Davey acknowledged the efforts of SRI to raise the issue of water management and the Basin Plan, including a rally in Albury before the federal election where Mr Brooks told the gathered crowd of over 1,000 that ‘‘we want our water back and we want all parties to know we are going to fight for it’’.
At the same rally SRI vice chair Darcy Hare highlighted the ‘‘waste of water’’ going into South Australia and expressed concern that this was at the expense of family farmers upstream.
Senator Hanson-Young was continuing her tour of the Riverina yesterday, and was unavailable to speak with the Pastoral Times.