I’m listening

October 04, 2017

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said local knowledge and issues would be taken into account on future decisions on water management.

In Deniliquin to meet with irrigation stakeholders yesterday, Ms Berejiklian said calls for local decision making to be given higher priority was taken on board.

She has vowed to consider local knowledge in her decision making, and said yesterday’s stakeholder meeting was only the start of consultation.

‘‘I don’t believe in one-off meetings,’’ Ms Berejiklian said yesterday.

‘‘I feel the communities in Murray are punching above their weight when it comes to making sure we are aware of the issues.

‘‘At Council of Australian Government meetings (on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and other water management issues) we make decisions that can potentially impact the future on these communities and the agricultural industry, and we know we have to get it right.

‘‘The main issue raised (at the meeting) was to make sure every decision point we make considers the views in and around Deniliquin.

‘‘It was import that I heard, and continue to hear, what irrigators in and around Deniliquin feel.

‘‘Not everyone around the table had the same views, but it is important for us to appreciate the knowledge.’’

NSW Minister for Primary Industries and Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair was also at yesterday’s meeting, along with The Nationals’ candidate for Murray Austin Evans and former Member for Murray Adrian Piccoli.

They met with irrigator groups like Southern Riverina Irrigators, West Berriquin Irrigators, Murray Valley Private Diverters, Murray Irrigation Limited, Murrumbidgee Irrigation, Murray Darling Association, Edward River Council and Murray River Council.

SRI chairman Graeme Pyle said the meeting covered ‘‘every issue’’ in the Murray Valley region.

‘‘The Premier listened. She was very sympathetic and told us we have a hardworking water minister who has taken other people’s pain, and Minister Blair said he will conduct review of the Department of Primary Industries’ management.’’

Mr Pyle said local irrigators shared their ‘‘general contempt’’ for the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s inability to offer hope and trust in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan process.

He said the authority’s notion that an additional 450 gigalitres in environmental flows — on top of the controversial 2750GL to already be diverted from productive use to the environment — may pass to meet triple bottom line outcomes was ‘‘at odds with reality’’.

Mr Pyle said although a large number of people who attended the discussion were from outside the Murray Valley, he said he hopes the meeting will prompt the ministers to take long-awaited action for the local community.

‘‘They heard our concerns, now it’s up to the Premier and water minister to do something quickly given the devastating effects of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan on our region,’’ he said.

‘‘More water away from food production would be detrimental.

‘‘The Premier said everything will be done better and ‘we are going to achieve great things’, so I hope it’s time we see that happen.’’

At the time of going to print yesterday, Mrs Berejiklian was on her way to Finley.

She said she had intended to walk the streets and meet the people before flying back to Sydney from Albury airport.

‘‘It will be my first time to Finley; I have heard a lot of good things about the town,’’ she said..

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