A unique water discussion paper, over a year in the making, was released to the public on Monday and has already attracted the attention of Environment Minister Sussan Ley for its positive, solutions-based approach to water management of the Murray-Darling Basin.
For the cooperative group of 11 local government councils in the southern Basin, it has been a long road to come to a common view with which to advocate to government. But a road that needed to be travelled, according to RAMJO’s Water Security Sub-Committee Chair Cr Chris Bilkey.
“This is the first time a major portion of the local government entities in the Basin has come together to advocate in a positive and solutions-focussed way. Our communities are all different and we don’t agree on everything. But we do agree that together we can work towards solutions to the problem of water scarcity.”
Minister for the Environment and Federal Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley MP, responded to the practical options proposed by the group.
“RAMJO (through its Water Security Sub-Committee) has put in an enormous effort working to achieve consensus across what is a large and diverse part of the southern Basin, one which sits entirely within my Farrer electorate. I want to congratulate them on their new Position Paper; there is much to work with here but also much of which our government is already pursuing at a national level.
“I have already written to Minister Pitt seeking a meeting with the RAMJO Mayors so we can further explore our common goals inside the Basin Plan – goals that will secure water for farmers, build resilience for future droughts and foster prosperity in both Farrer and across regional Australia.”
The first recommendation being tackled by the group is investment and research into agricultural adaptation, with a Sovereign Wealth Fund and Innovation Hub being proposed.
Cr Bilkey said a Sovereign Wealth Fund could ensure Australia’s national capital is preserved for investment in creating a strong future for the region.
“We are proposing practical solutions to complex water issues, but everything comes at a cost and needs to be funded.
The concept of a Sovereign Wealth Fund is all about nations investing in things of national importance. It could be a permanent source of funding for drought relief, infrastructure development, system maintenance and adaptation. What could be more important to the future of Australia than ensuring the health and sustainability of our national lifeline – the Murray-Darling river system?”
Cr Bilkey said the group was ready to take its whole-of-basin approach and positive solutions to advocate at all levels of government.
“We appreciate the efforts by Minister Ley in seeking a meeting for RAMJO with the Minister for Water, Keith Pitt, to start the process of ensuring a future for water and for the next generations across the Basin.”