News

Strong reply

By Southern Riverina News

‘‘People just want common sense from the government.’’

That is the sentiment most people had when filling out the Yanco Creek and Tributaries Advisory Council and Creek Country Alliance’s impromptu survey on NSW election day.

Country Creek Alliance member Helene Mortlock said the aim was to gauge public feeling about the creek systems, including the Billabong Creek, and overall water policy.

The survey was passed out to all voters at the Jerilderie polling booth and according to Mrs Mortlock ‘‘almost every person filled it in’’.

She said few of the 300 respondents showed a sound knowledge of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and its sustainable diversion limit projects, which she said highlighted a failing on behalf of the authority and relevant political bodies leading the charge.

‘‘We were delighted with the community’s willingness to contribute, their desire to be party to a solution, to express their frustrations, their concerns, to admit they felt disillusioned due to the shifting of goalposts, onus of government departments, accountability between state and federal government. We can tell people have given up trying to keep up.

‘‘The overwhelming majority — including many of the farmers — do not understand or moreso comprehend the Murray Darling Basin Authority projects directly affecting our creeks; who is responsible and why.

‘‘Many others vented and unpacked their concerns and ideas about the water issues, either with us or groups that grew organically.

‘‘Some had suggestions about ‘how to’ fix things, but the stories of impact from changes effective were most poignant.’’

Mrs Mortlock said she was ‘‘dismayed’’ by some of the stories.

‘‘One farmer spoke of paying only $5 per megalitre for water in 2016 and now three years later paying nearly $500.

‘‘Another farming family is perturbed at spending millions to meet contracts and still only being able to engage 25 per cent of their capacity as producers in this region.

‘‘With millions spent by them and others, they still only hope that all other agricultural risks remain in their favour.

‘‘One man told of how he nearly lost his own life when he (his body) was bogged in the mud with the cattle that he was struggling to retrieve from the sticky creek bed when the Yanco dropped as low as it did in September last year.

‘‘Many expressed despondency and yet there was a sense of their collective will to see it all regain some sanity and common sense.’’

Mrs Mortlock said the feedback has been collated and forwarded to the Department of Industry Water, Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley and newly elected NSW Member for Albury Justin Clancy.

She said although the surveys have been acknowledged by DOI Water, nothing can happen until at least June because of the pending Federal Government election.

‘‘We’ve hit the worst time for everything to happen. The New South Wales Government has been in caretaker mode, then because Melinda Pavey is the new water minister there is a briefing period.

‘‘With the federal election predicted for May, we hit another period of caretaker mode then another round of briefing the water minister (if David Littleproud leaves the portfolio).

‘‘Regardless, we shall maintain faith in the system — as slow as it is.

‘‘There are processes and gateways that have to be satisfied and we need to be there to meet them at every gate, letting them know we care about our creeks, their environs and all the communities therein.’’