Opinion

Playing with dynamite - Letters to the editor

By Riverine Herald

Angus Macneil AM, Green Park Pastoral Co, Rand NSW

SOME historical facts seem to be missing from debate around the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the local impact on irrigation farmers in southern NSW.

Many throwing themselves into this issue forget the major cause affecting low water allocations here, is the tri-state water sharing agreement between NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

State governments continue to control the amount of water distributed within their respective states.

We would still be on zero allocations in the Murray Valley even if the environmental protection mechanisms of the Basin Plan were never thought of.

Exacerbated by the fact there is and will continue to less water in the system, because of farmers in the catchment are improving soil structure and pastures reducing run off, there is less run-off from plantation forests than native ones and an increasing urban population in the catchment.

So, do we throw the Basin Plan out and start again; push for a multi-million dollar Royal Commission, or wait on the outcome of current inquiries into the plan’s transparency and outcomes?

The first two options, gaining most media attention, are literally playing with dynamite.

This would give hard-line environmentalists, anti-farming groups and city-based opportunists a platform to promote any amount of irrational agendas.

Most of us understand the Basin Plan is not perfect, including many unintended consequences not foreseen when the plan was designed.

We now need to look for the best way forward during a dry sequence of years, made much worse by even drier conditions to our north severely limiting water inflows into the Basin system.

The challenge is where and what is the solution, and how can that be implemented to allow this region to remain the nation’s premier food bowl.

The level of angst being expressed against local MP Sussan Ley is not helping.

She has been working extremely hard to assist troubled farmers and affected businesses, carefully listening to those prepared to share their concerns in a calm and sensible manner.

Attacked for not attending the recent Basin Plan protest at Tocumwal, I certainly can’t blame Sussan for not cancelling her existing schedule, particularly after the treatment she received at the Albury protest in April; booed and heckled, barred from speaking and, when she did try to, had the microphone switched off.

Protests play an important part in in the political system and keep this important issue front and centre in the political debate.