Community members, farmers, industry representatives and journalists have been locked out of the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) Bridging the Gap water buyback consultation meetings in Deniliquin.
Two meetings were announced by DCCEEW on Monday with a mere 48 hours’ notice. The meetings were not advertised, or even on the department’s website. Peak bodies such as Murray Regional Strategy Group and even Murray Irrigation Limited did not receive invites.
A department spokesperson said, “The Australian Government is committed to delivering the Murray–Darling Basin Plan in full,” and cited a lack of available venues in Deniliquin, and you guessed it, COVID-19!
A quick phone call confirmed that alternative venues of substantial capacity (up to 400) were indeed available.
The Basin Plan was spawned through the 2007 Water Act, an elaborate plan that allowed the Federal Government to usurp the constitutional rights of Australian states over their water resources by using the legal cover of the Ramsar Convention.
The Plan’s implementation has seen dramatic impacts across the southern connected system, even the government’s own reviews highlight this.
The Federal Government and their bureaucracy’s contempt for southern NSW and northern Victoria communities has no sign of slowing down, even a meeting over a community good, like water, is essentially invite only.
After The Bridge contacted the DCCEEW, we were offered a post-meeting media briefing. Myself (Lloyd) applied for a ticket to attend the 2:30pm briefing in my capacity as an irrigator and as Deputy Chair of Speak Up for Water. Later that day, I was informed via email that my ticket was cancelled due to my work as a journalist.
Community consultation was a process swiftly discarded as public meetings often showcased the real intention and impacts of what was to come, if it was truly ever there to begin with.
Why are issues fundamental to the viability of all within our community so keen to be discussed behind closed doors?
Why continue to act in a manner that will only fuel distrust and scepticism?
I have logged my objection to exclusion and will attend, standing on the street if I must.
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 9 March 2023.