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Crean invited to inspect the lakes

Thursday, 24th February, 2011

Simon Crean Simon Crean

By Gina Wilson

The Federal Government's Minister for Regional Australia, Simon Crean, has been invited to visit the city and the Menindee Lakes.

The local Regional Development Australia (RDA) extended the invitation to Mr Crean and the Murray-Darling Basin's chairman Craig Knowles at a meeting in Canberra on Monday.

Far West RDA's chief executive officer Linda Nadge said the best way for them to understand the complexity of the lakes was to see them.

"There is strong interest in visiting our region given that we have a nationally-significant asset within the Murray-Darling Basin, namely the Menindee Lakes," Mrs Nadge said.

"This asset has many stakeholders and presents itself as an extremely complex matter to understand ... there is no better tonic than seeing the asset and getting a feel for why it excites so many people."

The meeting, attended by the 11 RDAs located in the Murray-Darling Basin, was called by Mr Crean to discuss water issues and to seek out economic development ideas that also saved water.

"This meeting was an opportunity to identify common issues and to listen to the ideas being identified that will support economic diversification and drive greater efficiency in water usage," Mr Crean said.

"The Federal Government has made a major investment in water infrastructure programs that local communities could access to help them bridge the gap as they make the transition during the reform phase of the Murray-Darling Basin.

"The Government is committed to assisting local communities in the Murray Darling and has formed a Taskforce to consider the socio-economic impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan."

Mrs Nadge said she tagged three key projects at the Menindee Lakes: the Cawndilla to Darling River channel; having the lakes recognised as an international wetland on the RAMSAR list; and helping to facilitate seed funding in small businesses in the area.

"They seemed genuinely interested in those three projects," Mrs Nadge said.

"I'm confident that not just the Minister but the government departments ... (in charge) will make the best decisions."

Mrs Nadge said if Messrs Crean and Knowles visited the projects would mean more to them.

"Our projects can best be understood within the context of our environment," she said.

"A most persuasive way to understand our environment is to come and stand in it.

"Minister Crean has already visited 10 of the 11 MDB regions so we are hopeful he will find the time to visit.

"For example, he would be able to view first-hand how the flood mitigation attributes of the Menindee Lakes are currently saving governments millions of dollars in avoided damages that would otherwise be incurred if flooding occurred downstream right now.

"So the ongoing use of the lakes in this way, combined with water storage and environmental refurbishment, and the flow-on and links to tourism and the Ramsar nomination, will make more sense when this asset is seen."

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