The NSW Government needs to ‘step up to the plate’ and deliver on its responsibilities to regional communities in water management.
That is the key message from the Speak Up Campaign, following the latest Murray-Darling Basin Plan report, released last week.
Speak Up Chair Shelley Scoullar said many of the report card’s messages were highlighted by MDBA Chief Executive Andrew McConville during his visit to the NSW Murray region, which also occurred last week.
“Our feedback from these meetings highlighted what we are seeing ‘on the ground’ in our region,” Mrs Scoullar said. “As Mr McConville has pointed out, the New South Wales Government is at high risk of not meeting its responsibilities under the Basin Plan.
“We are calling on the NSW Government to ‘step up’ and deliver on its responsibilities,” she said.
The MDBA report has highlighted concerns with the NSW Water Sharing Plans, with Mr McConville stating that “without accredited water resource plans and a coverage catchment, it means New South Wales is effectively working outside the compliance framework”.
Mrs Scoullar said from the local community’s perspective this is disappointing because it is so unnecessary.
“Organisations in our region have worked hard in their efforts to help the NSW Government deliver on its Basin Plan commitments. I know there have been thousands of voluntary hours put in by community members, including those from organisations who make up the Murray Regional Strategy Group. They are all trying to work collaboratively with the NSW Government to resolve some of these pressing issues.
“However, locals are sharing the same frustration as the MDBA. Successive NSW Ministers have said they want community driven projects, but when it comes to the crunch they are not prepared to invest appropriately in the NSW Murray.”
Mrs Scoullar said MRSG had worked extensively with the NSW Murray community to develop its solutions-based, scientifically prepared roadmap that can help the NSW Government deliver on its Basin Plan commitments.
“After extensive consultation with the responsible NSW Government department I fail to see why significant investment and progress has not been made. Our state government, working with local stakeholders, could be delivering on basin plan commitments now if investment had come earlier.
“Complementary measures and the use of private infrastructure to deliver the ecological outcomes set under the plan could be in full swing, but are not.
“The failure to complete the water resource plans again highlights the NSW Government is ‘dragging the chain’ and appears prepared to let NSW Murray out to dry.
“It is past time NSW Government stepped up, and that leadership needs to start at the top,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She said a pleasing aspect of the report card was acknowledging the positive impacts being achieved by the 2,100 gigalitres which have been recovered since the start of the Basin Plan.
“It is important that this is more widely recognised, instead of being bombarded by false political rhetoric that only two gigalitres have been recovered and basin communities are ‘missing out’. Huge volumes of environmental water are now being delivered and to achieve this the Southern Basin has done the heavy lifting. This must be acknowledged at every level,” Mrs Scoullar said.