Ignored again

By Zoe McMaugh

New Murray Darling Basin Authority offices in Mildura, Griffith, Albury and Goondiwindi might constitute decentralisation, but Speak Up says this week’s announcement is more of an election ploy.

Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said local stakeholders have been lobbying for the MDBA to forge a meaningful connection with the NSW Murray Valley by placing a regional office in or near Deniliquin.

She said the decision to place the ‘local’ offices in Griffith and and Albury instead seems to be based more on votes than the outcomes.

‘‘With this announcement being made so close to the elections, it seems to be more about winning seats and electorates,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘It does not make sense — our part of the system is where it will be evident if the Basin Plan works or not. We’ve realised that especially this year as we have seen 300,000 megalitres of water wasted through mismanagement.

‘‘An office should be here on our doorstep.

‘‘This decision shows us that our governments just don’t care about our region; they don’t want to understand why the plan is not working.’’

The NSW Government has already been criticised for favouring Griffith votes over the Deniliquin district in particular, evidenced by the more significant investment in the regional city that other areas calling our for help.

The MDBA office is expected to create 30 new jobs for Griffith, which only last week was offered a TAFE NSW Shared Service Centre which would create 60 new jobs.

It is on top of $224 million to build a new Griffith Hospital, compared to $3.2 million announced for Deniliquin Hospital which many argue needs far more significant investment.

NSW Minister for Regional Water and Primary Industries Niall Blair, who was in Griffith to announce the new office alongside Federal Water Minister David Littleproud on Wednesday afternoon, said it made no sense for policy-makers to be based in Canberra where they are unable to see first-hand the impacts of their decisions.

Mr Blair and Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville have been lobbying the Federal Government to decentralise the MDBA into Basin communities since last year.

‘‘This move will mean policy makers have an opportunity to better understand local issues and the impacts that decisions around water can have on not just one community but many along the system,’’ Mr Blair said.

‘‘Griffith is a prime example of what a community can do when it has access to productive water and how producers and industry can work together to adapt to the changing nature of water use.’’

Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley suggested that from Griffith, the MDBA staff will be able to gain a greater understanding of the NSW Murray and Deniliquin district issues.

‘‘These staff will be kept busy by the interest and input we will provide them into the Basin Plan. They’ll get that feedback in Griffith, they’ll certainly receive it one-on-one in Deniliquin, indeed everywhere they visit, from Balranald to Buronga, Tocumwal to Tooleybuc,’’ she said.