News

70,000 people Speak Up

By Southern Riverina News

A community-based campaign is playing its role in educating the public about water issues.

While dying fish and a South Australian based Royal Commission dominate media headlines, the Speak Up Campaign continues promoting fairness and balance.

‘‘It’s a tough message to get across,” said Speak Up deputy chair Lachlan Marshall, of Blighty.

‘‘We are significantly out-resourced, but we think we punch above our weight with the limited resources at our disposal.’’

A recent online petition organised by Speak Up gathered an impressive 70,000 signatures from people throughout Australia supporting improved water policy.

The petition, via www.change.org, states the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is failing rural and indigenous communities, family farms and the environment, and as a result of water reform the diversity of agricultural systems has been reduced.

The petition states that the ‘‘environment and agricultural policy must go hand in hand, one does not need to be in competition with the other. We call on all governments to put politics aside and start governing for the whole Basin by treating rural communities, family farms and the environment with respect and on an equal footing.’’

Mr Marshall said support for the petition highlighted that Australians want a balanced Basin Plan that protects the environment, but does not sacrifice the family farm.

‘‘That is not what we have at the moment,’’ he said.

‘‘We have a poorly developed plan that is decimating many family farmers, as well as rural communities.

‘‘At the same time, because we do not have effective monitoring of environmental flows, there is damage to the iconic Murray River because authorities are trying to force too much water through the system.’’

Another social media success for Speak Up has been a video featuring Mr Marshall, who pleaded with authorities to announce a small allocation for NSW Murray food producers on February 1.

It had a reach of 37,000 viewers, and a drought video featuring Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar reached 42,000.

The NSW Department of Industry - Water ignored the pleas and announced another zero per cent allocation in the NSW Murray on February 1, however local water distribution company Murray Irrigation Ltd came to the rescue of its shareholders with a five per cent resource allocation.

Mr Marshall said through the efforts of Speak Up and other education campaigns people are slowly but surely learning about the plight of food producing in Australia.

‘‘We are the most efficient water users in the world, but unfortunately the same level of efficiency does not spread to our politicians and bureaucrats.

‘‘They are afraid to undertake the solutions which could fix the Basin Plan mess.

‘‘This should include serious infrastructure works at the end of the system to stop water being wasted, and acknowledging the damage being caused by excessive Murray River flows.

‘‘Speak Up will continue highlighting the mistakes being made, in the hope someone will have the political strength to do something about it.’’

If you would like more information about the Speak Up Campaign, or would like to join, visit www.speakup4water.com.