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Water woes give city a bad rap

Wednesday, 23rd March, 2016

The sorry state of the Menindee Lakes could be giving tourists the wrong impression about Broken Hill. The sorry state of the Menindee Lakes could be giving tourists the wrong impression about Broken Hill.

By Darrin Manuel

The city’s passion for the Darling River and Menindee Lakes could be inadvertently harming the city’s reputation as a holiday destination, according to some councillors.

Mayor Wincen Cuy and councillor Dave Gallagher agreed that outrage surrounding the water crisis had resulted is some misinformation spreading beyond the Far West.

Mayor Cuy said information on Facebook and other social media was reaching a broad audience and at times misrepresenting the city’s current state.

“Yes, there are incidents with rashes and people having reactions (to the water), but we have to take that in the context of the population involved,” he said.

But he said hospital figures showed fewer people were presenting with skin irritations than at the same time last year, water quality had improved thanks to the commissioning of the reverse osmosis plant, and ongoing water testing showed the city’s water quality was passing “with flying colours”.

“I do understand that there’s a part of the population that are very invested and very emotional, but common sense needs to prevail,” he said.

“We have to be careful with how we’re portraying ourselves to the broader public, especially with the (business) diversification we will need to have going forward.

“With the further Perilya retrenchments, tourism is going to become an even more important part of the future of Broken Hill.

“There needs to be facts established between what is real, and what is emotional.”

Clr Dave Gallagher, speaking in his capacity as acting chairman of Rural Development Australia (RDA), said he had heard of tourists not wanting to travel to the city as they believed they would have to bring their own water.

“We’re coming right to the start of a season with high potential for visitors, and we’ve got people thinking either that we have no water at all, or the water we do have is unuseable,” he said.

“I think some people are inadvertently portraying the region in an overly negative light, and that’s being felt across the whole RDA region.”

Clr Gallagher said he understood it was difficult to draw attention to the city’s water plight without casting the city in a somewhat negative light, but urged locals to avoid unnecessary doom and gloom when fighting for the region’s waterways.

“I know it’s a difficult balance, and I’m not suggesting we stop (fighting) for water in the short, medium or long term, but we need to assure visitors that Broken Hill is still an ideal location and the Far West is a great place to visit.”

The pair’s message was echoed by Inland NSW, the Regional Tourism Organisation for the Outback, and Destination Far West, the region’s new industry body.

“We want travellers from far and wide to know that they are, and always will be, welcome in Broken Hill and Outback NSW,” said Chairman of the Destination Far West Steering Group, Graham Perry.

“We acknowledge that while there are water restrictions and issues that are being addressed, the welcome mat remains in place - Broken Hill’s water remains fit to drink and sufficient for visitors and residents alike.

“Visitors remain an important part of the community’s economic and social fabric.”

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