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Time for balance

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April 18, 2018

Edward River Mayor Norm Brennan, Murray River Mayor Chris Bilkey, Berrigan Shire Mayor Matt Hannan and NSW Member for Murray Austin Evans at last week's water forum.

It is time to deliver the balance that was promised in implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

That was a strong message from the ‘Uniting the Southern Basin’ water forum in Moama on Friday.

The forum was organised by the Speak Up Campaign and brought together a vast range of community members from throughout northern Victoria, southern New South Wales and South Australia.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said the forum highlighted the need for balance and honesty during implementation of an obviously flawed Basin Plan.

“The plan hasn’t got the balance right. We believe that’s indisputable. It has been dominated by political expediency, instead of ensuring we effectively balance environmental, social and economic needs.

“This message must be delivered loud and clear to politicians. We’ve had enough and the fight is just starting.

“But to achieve the right balance, which should be everyone’s ultimate goal, we have to work together. Any other approach will not bring the results we want,” Mrs Scoullar said.

The forum drew a crowd of 300 from across northern Victoria and southern NSW, and in her closing speech a passionate Mrs Scoullar told those assembled they had heard “the Basin Plan was built on deliberate misinformation”. This had led to social and economic impacts, plus impacts to private and public land from attempting to deliver volumes modelled on this misinformation.

“To maximise environmental outcomes we need a focus on quality not quantity.

“Speak Up is about communities and while there are communities suffering across the Basin it is the Southern Basin which has been the collateral damage in a plan that we all know is about politics, not science or balanced outcomes.

“Southern Basin communities have been abandoned by politicians and representatives who bury their heads in the sand or choose to toe the party line instead of seeking the truth. We have been out resourced by ideologies that choose to ignore an objective and evidence based approach, instead using information to mislead the general public.

“Our communities have had enough of being traded off and the subject of political and industry deals. It is time we were protected and given opportunities to reach our productive and ecological potentials. We support the New South Wales and Victorian Water Ministers in their strong stance to withdraw from the Basin Plan if common sense does not prevail,” Mrs Scoullar said.

She continued: “Despite the fact we have been sacrificed throughout the Basin Plan process, we are not walking away. Environmental outcomes are equally important as the social and economic, which is why we believe that localised projects are the best option to ensuring a Basin Plan that works for the Lower Darling, and other Southern Basin communities while at the same time providing opportunities for South Australia.

“Today we present Speak Up’s options to Balance the Basin Plan and call on those of you here today to join us in Speaking Up for our communities by supporting our motions. It is time we sent a strong message to our Prime Minister, and if sensible changes are not delivered then we need to take this debate to the city.”

Two motions were overwhelmingly supported by the forum, as follows:

●No further acquisition of water in the Southern Basin

●Indisputably Balance the Plan - Prime Minister, Basin State Water Ministers and Premiers to meet with representatives from Speak Up so that our balanced options can be presented on behalf of the grassroots community.

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