Pavey promises greater transparency on Murray-Darling

Pavey promises she'll take irrigator concerns to big table

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Mrs Pavey and John Barilaro in Griffith at a meeting to discuss water issues. Photo by Jacinta Dickins, Area News.

Mrs Pavey and John Barilaro in Griffith at a meeting to discuss water issues. Photo by Jacinta Dickins, Area News.

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NSW Government confronts Murray-Darling anger

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On a tour to meet irrigators and concerned citizens, the new NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey has promised greater transparency on decisions affecting water licence holders in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Mrs Pavey has promised she will take concerns of irrigators to future ministerial meetings concerning the Murray-Darling Basin, rather than vetting issues before they are put forward.

It was hard yards for the new minister on the tour among western irrigators, where her Nationals' party suffered a major electoral backlash at the state election, losing the seats of Barwon and Murray, mainly on the back of anger at the handling of water issues, and the deaths of millions of fish in the Menindee Lakes, which has largely run dry. The Barwon-Darling system is listed as at critical stage four drought level.

Before the election there was even a threat against former Water Minister Niall Blair over water issues - one of the reasons that brought him to leave the ministry and eventually parliament.

Mrs Pavey has stepped into this hornet's nest with some degree of acceptance, sources said. She was able to have constructive talks with her Shooters opponent and Murray MP Helen Dalton and also with southern irrigators.

Essentially she has promised to take their concerns over water management directly to MDBA meetings.

"Essentially she has said we are all on the same page and want to get some constructive solutions," a source said.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro also was with Mrs Pavey and such is the concern in the regions it was his second trip to Griffith in three weeks.

"It was a first step in building trust with irrigators," the source said.

Melinda Pavey was by his side as he said she would be, in her first tour of the region since her appointment as NSW water minister six weeks ago.

Meeting with irrigators, stakeholders and councils, this tour was all about hearing and listening to the lived experience on the ground.

After admiring the "world class" irrigation systems in Coleambally, the pair and their entourage made their way to meet with Leeton and Griffith Council at the Griffith chambers.

In a meeting session with almost 90 Griffith and MIA irrigators late afternoon on Tuesday, Ms Pavey said they were entering into the "dawn of a new age".

"We have the money, we are so close with the plans now, it won't be long before we see positive changes," Ms Pavey said.

"We are here to fight for team NSW, as a united front.

"There is no election, this isn't just talk - we are working on it now."

She wanted to hear what the main concerns were from the people in the room - but also made the stipulation she wanted to hear their solutions as well.

Member for Murray Helen Dalton was in attendance, and said this was a "positive step" in reaching solutions on water.

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"It was a really great gathering," Mrs Dalton said.

"It just goes to show how invested and passionate this town is that we have so many people here - many of whom are sowing or harvesting at this very moment.

"To have Melinda and John here in the same room, I just hope they utilise the skills and knowledge found right here in this room." Mr Barilaro said there were no announcements, no commitments being made in this trip - it was a purely informational tour.

"It's easy to through critisism grenades from the sideline," Mr Barilaro said.

"But we want everyone to be involved in the solution as well. There has been too much politics in the water debate for too long, and that needs to change, starting now."

Mr Barilaro and Mrs Pavey toured through Southern Basin communities including stops at Albury, Deniliquin, Coleambally, Jerilderie and Griffith.

Mr Barilaro said the agenda for the Murray Darling Ministerial Council must reflect the needs of local communities and provide greater transparency on water management decisions.

"Irrigators in the southern Basin have done a lot of the heavy lifting in delivering the Basin Plan and should have a greater say in how critical water management decisions are made," Mr Barilaro said.

"That means putting communities back at the centre of the plan and providing more transparency for how and why decisions are made," he said.

Mrs Pavey said: "We have a chance to have all productive ideas put on the table. That's why grassroots-based forums led by local people and their productive solutions will form the basis of how we approach the other states and the commonwealth to make sure NSW and the Southern Basin gets its fair share under the plan."

"Ensuring more water for our communities is my priority; I don't want to see a situation whereby we are making decisions for other states at the cost of our farmers, our communities, our people in NSW.

"I look forward to working with more Basin communities to table their resolutions at future Council meetings.

"The NSW Government supports the delivery of the Basin Plan in a way that genuinely balances social, economic, environment and cultural outcomes," she said.

Part of this story first appeared in The Area News

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