Gabrielle Duykers, Naracoorte Community News
Tatiara District Council has voted to stop providing funding and councillor representation for an organisation that supports the sustainability of Keith’s water supply.
At its July meeting, council acknowledged a letter from the Murray Darling Association (MDA), the peak body for local government in the river basin, detailing the importance of being involved in helping to achieve an environmentally balanced river system.
However, councillor Miles Hannemann made a recommendation that council cease to attend monthly MDA meetings and stop paying the $2,200 annual subscription fee.
“They keep saying we’re ‘paying a fee so we might as well be at the table’,” Cr Hanneman said.
“I recommend we stop paying money and let them know we’re not coming.”
Tatiara council has been a member of the MDA since 1996, appointing two representatives to the association.
Mayor Graham Excell expressed uncertainty about the consequences of non-attendance.
“I don’t know if I can take that recommendation,” Mayor Excell said.
“We rely on the Murray Darling Association for water for Keith.”
Drinking water for Keith is delivered via a 132km long pipeline, beginning in Tailem Bend, pumped from the River Murray.
Cr Hannemann said water would still be supplied even if elected members “aren’t there”.
“The government will make sure of that,” he said.
Cr David Edwards said he was against the recommendation to pull out of the association.
“I think it’s important that we still contribute to this group,” Cr Edwards said.
“It’s very hard at this stage to have people that are willing to be on that committee as we have a huge responsibility right now with our own water allocation plan in Tatiara.
“[But] I think it’s important that we leave the door open for the next round of councillors to have the opportunity to be a part of this group.”
Cr Ken McInerney seconded Cr Hannemann’s recommendation, but the motion was lost 2-2.
Cr Robert Mock presented a new recommendation: that council write a letter to the association detailing its reasons for “not providing a delegate”.
Its reasoning included the already extensive underground aquifer management in Tatiara, as well as active participation in the Limestone Coast Local Government Association.
Mayor Excell said he was still concerned the decision would have negative implications for Keith.
“I’m just worried about the tie-up with our underground water and the association and what we’re actually going against here,” he said.
However, the amended recommendation was carried.
As a result, Tatiara will have no input in improving the sustainability of the Murray Darling Basin for the foreseeable future.
MDA CEO Emma Bradbury said the lack of representation would have no direct bearing on drinking water in Keith.
“While we’re disappointed at this decision (by Tatiara council), resolving to not renew membership will not have any impact on security or quality of water supply,” Ms Bradbury said.
“We respect that councils are faced with budget decisions everyday.
“However we would suggest there can be no better investment in your community than ensuring you’re part of the national conversation on water security.”
This article appeared in Naracoorte Community News, 28 July 2021.