The Speak Up Campaign has vowed to continue fighting for its communities, especially in relation to fair water policy.
At its annual general meeting on Sunday members discussed upcoming federal and state elections and the need for a community voice to be heard.
Returning chair Shelley Scoullar said the last two years during COVID had been difficult for many organisations, including Speak Up, but highlighted the need to keep raising issues of concern and making the public aware of political outcomes that were to the detriment of southern New South Wales and northern Victoria.
“While we are disappointed that the federal Coalition Government refuses to acknowledge the need to be smarter in the use of water, at least it is attempting to reduce further damage to our regions with its commitment there will be no more water buybacks.
“Labor is refusing to announce a position on buybacks, and there is huge concern that it will take this easy but very expensive way out to try and get access to more water.
“If it understood water management and the Basin Plan – which most politicians don’t – Labor would realise that we do not need to take more water for productive use. All we need to do is be efficient in the way we use available resources.”
Mrs Scoullar said at state level, the NSW Coalition Government also needs to show greater appreciation for the needs of rural communities, around water and other issues.
“Regional New South Wales has had enough of city-centric governments, as has been evident in election results in recent years. Former safe National Party seats have fallen to minor parties, and in Saturday’s by-election the seat of Bega looks like being taken by Labor.
“This is occurring because insufficient attention is being paid to the needs of regional communities, and the trend will continue unless the Coalition does something, and very quickly, to reverse it,” Mrs Scoullar said.
At the Speak Up AGM, Lachlan Marshall stepped down as chair and Mrs Scoullar was elected unopposed. Lloyd Polkinghorne was re-elected deputy chair and Sue Braybon was elected secretary/treasurer. Mr Marshall retains a position on the general committee.
In his outgoing chair’s report, Mr Marshall highlighted the role Speak Up had played in establishment and activities of the Murray Regional Strategy Group.
“Our Member for Farrer Sussan Ley, along with other politicians, emphasised the need for our region to have a united voice on water policy and advocacy. As a result the Murray Regional Strategy Group was formed and it has developed into a strong organisation representing a cross-section of farming, water, community and Indigenous organisations across the region.
“It has been instrumental in preparing a roadmap forward for our region, and bringing together representatives from numerous government departments and agencies, so we can work together on solutions to the problems we are encountering from the Basin Plan.
“Going forward, we believe this collaborative approach to developing solutions is imperative, and Speak Up will be an integral part of that.
“However, we will not back away from ‘calling a spade a spade’. When politicians and the bureaucracy need to be held accountable for not acting in our community’s best interests, or when they are developing bad policy or delivering poor implementation as we have seen too often over the last decade, we will call it out,” Mr Marshall said.
The future of Speak Up remains dependant on memberships to fund its operation. To sign up as a member visit www.speakup4water.com