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Saturday, 11th July, 2015

Menindee “blockie” Ron Page has a message for the prime minister. PICTURE: Darrin Manuel Menindee “blockie” Ron Page has a message for the prime minister. PICTURE: Darrin Manuel

By Andrew Robertson

He’s spent 25 years trying to get the State government to listen to his concerns about the Darling River and the Menindee Lakes but now Ron Page has decided it’s time to go federal.

The Menindee ‘blockie’ and former Broken Hill mayor believes he has the solution to our water crisis and is kick-starting a campaign to try and enlist the support of the only person he feels can make it happen - the prime minister.

“He’s the one person who can save the system; he’s our prime minister and we’re asking him for help,” a fired-up Mr Page said yesterday.

As the city edges closer to being supplied with desalinated river water - and in the event that runs out, bore water - with each passing week, Mr Page said there was a better way to safeguard the area against drought.  

Widening and deepening Lake Wetherill would provide “at least” six years’ worth of water to Broken Hill and other water users in the region, according to Mr Page, eliminating the need for bores or a pipeline to the Murray River.

With the lakes now virtually empty and no inflows expected in the near future, a deep lake storage would greatly reduce evaporation losses and guarantee supply through the longest drought, even when the rest of the lakes went dry, he said.

There were even benefits for upstream irrigators, Mr Page said, as the lakes would rely less on river flows to meet the needs of local users, freeing up more flows for northern growers.

The region’s increase water security would also create employment, while the many millions it would cost to complete the works would soon be recouped through water savings.

“When we’re put in this situation (again) our water will be safe,” Mr Page said.

He said he had community support for the plan and all that was needed now was to get the prime minister to sign up to it, which first meant getting his attention.

That’s where the campaign comes in.

“What I’m asking is for the Broken Hill community to turn up to the Community Markets in Sturt Park today to show Tony Abbott that we do care about the Darling River and we need his help to save the system.

“He wants to be known as the infrastructure prime minister; this is an opportunity for him to be known as the prime minister who saved the Darling River.”

Residents are being asked to meet at the Community Markets at 12.30pm for “a group photo”.

In true campaign style, Mr Page has had the words “Help Save Your Darling River System” printed on t-shirts and wants to present one to Mr Abbott if the PM accepts an invitation to visit the lakes.

“I’ve been trying to think of an idea to try and get him to come out here,” said Mr Page, adding he would offer to take Mr Abbott on a tour of the lakes.

In return, he wants the prime minister to save the lakes and a river system.

“We want a commitment to solve our water problem - not just for Broken Hill but for the region.”

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