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‘Time for talk is over’

Tuesday, 16th December, 2014

By Erica Visser

A former cotton grower, now standing for the seat of Barwon, told a public meeting last night that we should never accept bore water and to be more radical in our opposition to it being forced on us.

But Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham watered down his stance against bore drilling, telling around 150 residents that if the lakes run out they might have to make do.

The meeting, headed by a local water advocacy group, heard representatives from three political platforms state their position on the Menindee Lakes crisis.

Mr Buckingham, alongside Greens candidate for Barwon, Cameron Jones, used the opportunity to release the party’s six-point plan for improving water security throughout the region.

The policy urges the government to buy Cubbie Station to return large flows back to the Darling River, restore the buyback of water in the Murray-Darling system to a minimum of 2570 litres and support a downstream weir for Wilcannia.

Mr Buckingham said he had been very vocal in NSW parliament regarding the water issue since he last visited the city a month ago.

“I have been basically harassing other MPs... I’ve been raising (the problem) at the canteen, at the hall, at the urinal - wherever I can,” he told last night’s crowd at the Musicians’ Club meeting.

“The Darling isn’t a river anymore. It’s stagnant pools full of dead carp. You wouldn’t give it to animals.

“...The Darling is dying. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is a complete and utter failure. No ifs, no buts.”

But Mr Buckingham was met with jeers when he told residents that if the city runs out of water in 10 months’ time, they would have to make do with groundwater.

“Clearly if the water runs out, you may have no other option than to start thinking about bores,” he said.

“But the bores should be the last thing we’re considering - not the first.”

Local Labor councillor Jim Nolan spoke out about Labor’s position on behalf of Wilcannia-based candidate Craig Ashby who was unable to attend the meeting due to work commitments.

“What is bloody important is water and I’ve had enough... As local councillors we’ve been discussing our concerns since October,” Clr Nolan said.

“Labor stands for a fair go for all. It stands for being a party of the people. It’s all well and good to shove the blame off but what’s (Member for Barwon and state water minister) Kevin Humphries going to do about it and what’s he going to say to (federal MP) Sussan Ley?

 

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“Why was too much water let go too soon? Somehow downstream think they’re more important than Broken Hill. 

“Kevin Humphries would love to be re-elected. It’s a pity he’s not going to be.”

Meanwhile, independent candidate Rohan Boehm made his first public appearance in Broken Hill.

The crowd erupted in anger when the Narrabri-based candidate tried to defend the cotton industry’s role in the water crisis.

But Mr Boehm, who worked in the cotton industry for seven years, wasn’t perturbed by the reaction.

“My message is to stop fearing the cotton industry. It isn’t the problem. Cotton is one of the greatest success stories of the Australian agriculture industry,” he told the BDT following the meeting.

“The problem is really poor public administration and a poor process.”

Mr Boehm said there was nothing in the Greens’ water policy he “vehemently disagreed” with, but he disagreed with Mr Buckingham’s suggestion of accepting bore water as a last resort.

“That would show failure of the community to properly get their story across,” he said.

“Should they accept the bores as a reality the government will push it on them. They should not accept it, just as we said there’s not going to be a coal seam gas industry - and so far there isn’t.”

Mr Boehm said the community had to do more than “sit in the pub and talk loudly” if they wanted to raise awareness about the plan to use bore water as an emergency supply.

“I say camp down there and make the biggest noise that you’ve ever made,” he said.

“You have to get out of town and put your message out there... Until the news gets on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald or the Telegraph, you’re not there yet."

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