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Community group seeks new chair at AGM

The future of the community based Speak Up Campaign will be discussed at its upcoming annual general meeting.


High profile chair Shelley Scoullar has advised she will not be seeking re-election at the meeting, to be held at Finley Country Club Hotel on Friday March 1, from 11am.


Mrs Scoullar, who was a rice farmer at Mayrung when Speak Up was established in 2015, has since moved with her family to Albury and took her communications career on a fresh trajectory when appointed to a new role last year.


“Speak Up has been a pivotal part of my life for the past decade, but it is time to tackle new challenges and build my career,” she said.


Speak Up was established to advocate on behalf of communities being impacted by various aspects of water management and policy, in particular the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.


Mrs Scoullar said she hopes a new chair will be elected to give the organisation a “fresh perspective” and build on the excellent work that has been achieved since its inception.


“However, if we are to continue our work the organisation will need a funding boost. Raising funds has been difficult since Covid-19 and you cannot run an advocacy group without money.”


Mrs Scoullar acknowledged that advocacy efforts had been extremely difficult over the past 18 months, with the Albanese Government having little interest in collaborating with local communities.


“Despite numerous requests, neither Speak Up or other organisations can get Water Minister Tanya Plibersek to even visit the NSW Murray and northern Victoria so we can explain on-site some of the issues and provide alternative, achievable solutions to her damaging water buybacks.


“Buybacks are the easy way to recovering legislated volumes of water under the Basin Plan, but it is a lazy method that in the long term will hurt communities and the environment, while also placing even more cost of living pressures on Australian families.


“I must admit, it is frustrating to the point of incomprehensible that we have a current Sydney-based Water Minister who is prepared to severely impact rural communities but cannot even be bothered taking the time to visit us and fully understand the consequences of her decisions.


“I have learnt a lot about politics and the Basin Plan over the past decade and there are a few things that stand out: (a) The plan was developed primarily to fix political problems, not the environment; (b) while many involved have the best intentions, self-interest overshadows implementation of the best possible plan; (c) from both a political and bureaucratic perspective, the views of those who ‘live and breathe’ the system are treated with contempt.


“I will step down from my role at Speak Up with some sadness, but in the knowledge I have given it my absolute best shot. I firmly believe history will not look kindly on the Basin Plan’s poor implementation and the unnecessary pain it has inflicted on so many people. That is such a shame, because our communities desperately want to work collaboratively with governments to protect both our environment and our farmers, and this should not be difficult to achieve.


“Until, of course, politics gets in the way.”

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