Councils chart changes to secure water for food

Murrumbidgee councils chart out changes to Murray-Darling Basin Plan to secure future

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The region's councils have come together with the changes they want to see in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The region's councils have come together with the changes they want to see in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

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Eleven councils stake their positions on changing Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

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Councils on either side of the Murrumbidgee and the Murray have outlined the changes they want to see in the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The Riverina and Murray Joint Organisation (RAMJO) has representatives from 11 councils which came together to develop options to improve water security for the region.

The recommendations include comprehensive reviews of the water market and conveyance water and losses as well developing an agricultural plan for the basin.

Improved management of water during emergencies such as droughts and bushfires, developing a sovereign wealth fund to support drought relief and the impact, if any, of climate change on inflows into the basin other also recommended.

Griffith mayor John Dal Broi said the document was unique and encouraging as it brought the region together to fight for the one issue.

"I'm really pleased with the outcome, it's a sensible report which can be presented to both sides of politics but also the bureaucracy," Councillor Dal Broi said.

The recommendations from RAMJO's position paper.

The recommendations from RAMJO's position paper.

"In my career in local government, I've never seen 11 councils come together in a common document before," he said.

Cr Dal Broi said it was about fine-tuning the Basin Plan to be better, compared to some rhetoric around the plan which demanded it be paused or ditched entirely.

"The reality of it is, the plan is there. It's a document that both Labor and the Liberal/National parties have endorsed. To blow it up ... it's not going to happen. It's not realistic," he said.

The 11 councils which make up RAMJO are all part of the Farrer electorate, which is represented by Sussan Ley, who is the current federal environment minister.

Ms Ley said she welcomed the paper and the united involvement of the region.

"There's initiatives in there that we can really work together on," she said.

I've sent the paper already to water minister Keith Pitt with a covering letter from me, saying that every recommendation in here comes from the heart of my community, their passion for water for growing good and their determination to have a bright future.

"I'm supportive of many of the recommendations, some probably need attention from the water minister and governments more broadly, and some of them relate to state governments."

Ms Ley said she was seeking a meeting with the Mr Pitt and the 11 councils via video conference.

She hoped the paper would help reframe the debate around water in the southern basin.

"A lot of the water debate has been about abandoning the plan, where as the RAMJO position paper accepts the need for the plan, while recognising that it is a huge challenge to deliver it on time," Ms Ley said.

"The plan in my view is almost undeliverable by 2024. Those conversations are being had between state and federal governments.

"This paper is about getting it right for the future."

A sub-committee led by Murray River mayor Chris Bilkey spent a year working on the document.

"We have seen firsthand how confused and frustrated people are by what has been happening - or not happening - to address water issues across the Murray Darling Basin," RAMJO chairman and Albury mayor Kevin Mack said.

"So our communities have come together with a single voice to put sensible options on the table and offer a way forward to balance environmental, social and agricultural needs."

RAMJO's members include Albury, Berrigan, Carrathool, Edward River, Federation, Griffith, Hay, Leeton, Murray River, Murrumbidgee and Narrandera councils.

"We believe this is a step in the right direction to focus attention on the issue of water management in this region, and how all levels of government can work together with communities to find solutions," Murrumbidgee Council mayor Ruth McCrae said.

The story Councils chart changes to secure water for food first appeared on The Area News.

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