Southern Riverina Irrigators are pleased with Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley’s address to parliament highlighting the need for a review into the provision of water for agriculture, but said her words needed to be put into action.
Ms Ley expressed her gratitude at the Federal Government’s full response to the report of the Independent Review of the Water Act and said the amendments to the Water Act were an important start in making the necessary adjustments to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
However, she also reminded parliament that her communities — the irrigators of the NSW Murray region — were still struggling under the basin plan.
‘‘I want to make it very clear to the parliament how unhappy, anxious and desperate my communities are feeling at this point in time,’’ Ms Ley said.
She said the low allocations and the high cost of temporary water had left some farmers without a planted rice crop this season.
And having to see the Murray River rapidly delivering large volumes of water downstream was compromising their livelihood and causing ‘‘great angst’’.
‘‘I believe we as a government have to do some important things, and I appreciate the Minister for Water’s close understanding and contact with me on these issues.’’
Ms Ley told parliament the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s culture needed to change and understand that the basin plan, as it stood now, was ‘‘not deliverable’’.
‘‘It (the culture) simply does not recognise that the communities need to have their voice heard and they need to be understood, and you do not just tick a box and say, ‘we’ve covered off on social and economic outcomes’,’’ she said.
Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Graeme Pyle was pleased at the concern for her electorate but said Ms Ley needed to visit the region with Water Minister Barnaby Joyce and needed ‘‘substance to back up her words’’.
‘‘Ms Ley and Water Minister Barnaby Joyce need to visit our region together so they can get a comprehensive grasp of what we are facing,’’ Mr Pyle said.
‘‘For example, how long can SunRice continue operating the largest rice mill in the Southern Hemisphere if, like this year, we have an ongoing situation with virtually no rice crop?’’
He reiterated the SRI’s position that there should be a royal commission into the development and delivery of the basin plan.
Mr Pyle encouraged Ms Ley to continue fighting for her communities against the basin plan and ensure the necessary adjustments were investigated.
‘‘I hope that we can work with our federal representative in parliament to effect the changes that are essential not just for our region, but for the entire nation.’’