Mayors share plan concerns

By Country News

Four mayors from southern NSW have joined forces in a plea for authorities to protect their communities.

It comes amid mounting concern about the loss of jobs and regional prosperity, brought about by what the mayors say is government inability to effectively manage water resources.

The mayors of Edward River (Norm Brennan), Murray River (Chris Bilkey), Berrigan Shire (Matt Hannan) and Murrumbidgee Shire (Ruth McRae) councils are particularly concerned about the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s approach to the present crisis, heightened by comments from its chief executive Phillip Glyde.

In an opinion piece (Country News, November 20), under the heading ‘Basin plan eases drought pain’, Mr Glyde spoke about making tough decisions in what he termed a ‘‘challenging season’’.

The four mayors believe Mr Glyde’s comments highlight the MDBA’s failure to appreciate the frustrations being felt in their communities and the lack of flexibility in water management.

‘‘The basin plan is not easing drought pain, in fact there is no question it is making the pain worse,’’ Cr Brennan said.

‘‘The Snowy Scheme, along with Hume and Dartmouth dams, were built to drought-proof our regions, but all we see now is water poured down the system to South Australia while our food and fibre producers sit idle on a zero water allocation.

‘‘When the basin plan was being developed we were promised it would be adaptive and flexible — quite clearly, when flexibility is needed it is non-existent.’’

Cr Bilkey said he did not believe Mr Glyde was cognisant of the enormous impact the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was having on their communities.

‘‘For example the small town of Wakool, in our council area, has been devastated by the basin plan,’’ he said.

‘‘Last week the Wakool Football Netball Club had to make the very tough decision to close down because it cannot get enough players.

‘‘I’m not sure Mr Glyde and others who keep telling us we are getting a balanced plan are aware of the impact something like this has on a small community.’’

Cr McRae said the mayors all knew inflows into the system were low, but the current management of water resources must come under serious scrutiny.

‘‘We have to improve it to protect our communities, and it appears Mr Glyde needs to develop a greater appreciation for this indisputable fact,’’ she said.

In Berrigan Shire, Cr Hannan said his community has endured too much pain from the basin plan and it must be rectified.

He said the shire’s towns of Berrigan and Finley, which relied so heavily on farming prosperity, were buckling under the strain.

‘‘We have experienced enough pain and can’t take any more,’’ Cr Hannan said.

‘‘Finley and Berrigan — both the towns and regions — have been severely affected by water issues with a loss of jobs, skills and wealth.

‘‘We are almost beyond trying to get the MDBA and governments to understand our plight and take positive action.’’