Monday, April 22, 2024

Water front of mind for Murray River councils

Water management matters were the key topics of discussion at the Murray River Group of Councils’ first meeting for 2024, held at Kerang last week.

Hosted by Gannawarra Shire Council, which is the chairing Council for this year, the meeting was the first to be held since legislation enabling the Federal Government to purchase water from irrigators to meet the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s enhanced environmental outcomes passed through Parliament.

“The Murray River Group of Councils, through its #pushbackbuyback campaign late last year, highlighted that taking water away from our communities for environmental needs will have detrimental social and economic effects on the region,” said Gannawarra Shire Council Mayor and MRGC Chair, Ross Stanton.

“We are continuing to call on the Commonwealth to ensure they minimise the impact buy backs will have on our communities. This has included advocating for our communities on this matter with the Victorian Minister for Water, Harriet Shing, attending a Murray-Darling Basin Authority forum in Sydney, where we were able to address our concerns with key MDBA personnel, and making a submission to the recent consultation by the Commonwealth on their proposed approach to additional water recovery.

“We know that the buy back process will soon begin, but we are committed to ensuring that Federal Water Minister, Tanya Plibersek, hears from us about the impact that this will have on our communities and working with the Federal Government to ensure our region receives proper investment to diversify our local economies and allow our communities to continue to thrive in the long term.”

Flood mitigation was another key topic discussed, especially with residents from the MRCG’s six member Councils – Campaspe, Gannawarra, Loddon, Moira, Mildura and Swan Hill – continuing to recover from the 2022 floods that impacted northern Victoria and December 2023/January 2024 riverine and flash flooding that affected various communities, said Mayor Stanton.

“Whilst we’re still working with our communities as we recover from these flood events, we need to be aware that planning now for the next flood event will strengthen our residents’ resilience.”

“We are working to strengthen our relationship with the Catchment Management Authorities that cover our respective Councils to identify all flood mitigation infrastructure in the region, categorising improvements that are needed and ensure that these measures are added to our Municipal Emergency Management Plans.”

He said that advocating for changes to current disaster management funding frameworks will be a priority for the MRCG this year, with member Councils recognising that the current timeframes for responding to natural disasters, such as riverine flooding, differ for each community.

“Sixteen months on from historic flooding across our region, we are still battling to receive promised funding to repair our roads and complete other vital works.”

“The MRGC will keep making our case to Ministers and senior bureaucrats in Canberra and Melbourne whilst we get on with the job as best as we can.

“We agreed that we would renew our efforts to engage as a Group with the relevant Ministers and bureaucrats in Melbourne to enable us to get on and complete the repairs our communities require,” Mayor Stanton said.

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