Consultation needed before next MINCO

The NSW Murray region’s major representative advocacy group is calling for greater consultation before the next meeting of Murray-Darling Basin Water Ministers.

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We believe the meeting, known as MINCO, is scheduled to take place this Friday November 27, but we have not been informed.

The Murray Regional Strategy Group wants Ministers to consider solutions which it says can help improve water management, and in turn support regional communities which have been adversely impacted by the Basin Plan.

However, it says there has been little engagement from Ministers and their Water Departments at state and federal level in the lead-up to MINCO.

MRSG chair Geoff Moar said the lack of consultation from the NSW Government was of particular concern.

“Before the Water Act 2007 and the start of the Basin Plan process, our local groups worked in collaboration with the state water bureaucracy to effectively manage our water.

“They listened to water management from our perspective and we respected their position. This led to mutually beneficial outcomes, such as the Land and Water Management Plans which were a joint effort between the government and landholders.

“But these days we seem to have a ‘top down’ approach where our views are not sought or respected. Our group was established at the suggestion of senior

state and federal politicians who wanted a united voice from the New South Wales Murray region.

“We have the united voice, but we are concerned it is not being listened to,” Mr Moar said.

He added there are numerous important issues which will be discussed by Water Ministers at MINCO and it was important that local input was considered in the decision-making process.

“In New South Wales, we need to return to a structure where departmental employees have a healthy relationship with each valley in the state, as this can help ensure the Water Minister is well informed and in the best possible position to promote the solutions to problems which we know exist.

“It’s hard to understand how the Minister can negotiate outcomes on our behalf if we have not been given adequate opportunity to engage and communicate our concerns and how they can be resolved.

“At federal level there has been general disappointment at the lack of engagement with Keith Pitt since he was appointed Water Minister. He made a fleeting visit to our region but we have been unable to have detailed and meaningful discussions with him to prosecute our cause. I appreciate the impact of COVID-19, but question whether we can continue using the pandemic as an excuse.

“The New South Wales Murray has worn the greatest pain from Basin Plan implementation and we are desperate for changes which are essential if our communities are to prosper into the future.

“We are hoping there will be engagement by Basin officials, the federal Water Minister, state government representatives and Water Minister Pavey before MINCO, so they can help prevent further damage to our region,” Mr Moar said.

November 24, 2020