'Bush unity now critical'

Water battles, drought taking a toll, 'time for unity'


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Water, the lack of it and its management are playing out as major issues as we head into this weekend's state election. The creation of a private water market is copping major flak.

Water, the lack of it and its management are playing out as major issues as we head into this weekend's state election. The creation of a private water market is copping major flak.

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Time for unity says Country Mayors of NSW Association chief Katrina Humphries.

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KATRINA Humphries says the people of country NSW are allowing themselves to be divided by politicians with agendas that are aligned to the will of an urbanised minority.

Mrs Humphries is Moree's mayor and chairperson of the Country Mayors Association of NSW and spends a lot of her time on the road in the state's regional and rural areas and says she is saddened by what is playing out in the bush.

"I'm really concerned the bush is fighting itself, it's very unhealthy," she says, "we shouldn't be nipping at each other's heels".

Without doubt water, or a lack of it, is what's playing on people's minds leading up to the weekend state election, she says.

The art of politics has been lost, we used to have bipartisanship, there used to be good sports in politics. - Katrina Humphries

She said allegations of water theft were wrong, because no-one had any water and city-based lobbyists were blaming cotton farmers.

"All this paranoia about cotton is playing into the hands of hypocrites who don't think about what they're wearing, what they sleep in or what's in their bathrooms.

"We're being pitted against each other and I hate that, this is not what we're about and I'd like to put out a call to all Australians, particularly rural Australians, to pull together," she said.

"The art of politics has been lost, we used to have bipartisanship, there used to be good sports in politics who, if they lost the election, would still allow democracy to work," she said.

The self-proclaimed conservative politician said she worked well with Sydney's Deputy Lord Mayor Linda Scott, who was Labor, so at a local government level it was achievable, so why shouldn't it be at state and federal levels?

She said the divisions about water that were being encouraged across regional NSW "could be lifelong and we don't want that".

"The rivers are dry in the state's north as well, and it's pretty hard to manage a resource we don't have."

Moree Mayor Katrina Humphries (centre in cap) says the bush must stop fighting itself and asks for unity, both among politicians and farmers, after the election.

Moree Mayor Katrina Humphries (centre in cap) says the bush must stop fighting itself and asks for unity, both among politicians and farmers, after the election.

She said it was very difficult to put your finger on when a drought began

Mrs Humphries said the best thing city people could do for the bush was to get out and have a look around.

In the state's Far West, Country Women's Association of NSW president Annette Turner said the full impact of this drought was yet to be assessed and unity was terribly important at this time.

"We could lose a generation of farmers who came back with their hearts, their passion and their finances because of this drought," she said.

"People are visibly exhausted.

"Out here we've got dust storms every day and everyone is becoming isolated, we need to unite and care for each other."

Yet Ms Turner said she felt the drought and the hurt farmers were feeling had touched the hearts of city folk. 

In the south of the state Rice Growers Association president and Moulamein grower Jeremy Morton said politicians should "proceed with caution" leading into this election.

Rice Growers Association president Jeremy Morton says politicians need to 'proceed with caution' on water policy after the election.

Rice Growers Association president Jeremy Morton says politicians need to 'proceed with caution' on water policy after the election.

He said the government had so far failed to take people on the journey that is the Murray Darling Basin Plan and water privatisation, and people promising change had to understand what keeping those promises entails.

The cumulative affects of the MDBP and creation of the water market have been massive and people haven't yet adjusted to it, he said.

"Some people are in a world of pain," he said.

Mr Morton said he was aware of a recent meeting in Deniliquin at which disaffected water users openly discussed strategies of civil disobedience to gain traction with the government so it understood the impact of its water reforms.

The open trading of water and the Water Act of 2007 also grates on Leeton Mayor Paul Maytom's nerves.

He sees it as one of the great challenges for the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in the immediate future.

"There are now people holding water that don't use it and that's wrong, that's simply trading on people's misfortunes to builld wealth and power," he says.

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