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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Government Adrift on water policy

After nearly a year in office, the Water Minister has yet to develop a comprehensive plan for regional water security. Instead, the minister has led rural communities astray with a superficial rewrite of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

During last week’s Budget Estimates hearing, Shadow Water Minister Steph Cooke highlighted the NSW Labor Government’s neglect of the crucial water portfolio. Under the minister’s leadership, a multitude of issues has accumulated without any discernible leadership.

“Over the past year, Labor has little to show for its efforts. They’ve canceled forward-thinking projects like the Wyangala Dam wall expansion, agreed to a questionable Murray-Darling Basin Plan deal, and delayed vital water security initiatives,” remarked Ms. Cooke.

Ms. Cooke noted the minister’s lack of awareness regarding significant water projects. “The minister seemed uninformed about changes to essential infrastructure projects like the Wilcannia Weir, admitting that community consultation on these changes was only cursory,” she added.

Regarding the new Murray-Darling Basin Plan agreement, the minister’s response regarding NSW’s water recovery target within the broader Commonwealth environmental goal was vague. “The minister failed to instill confidence in communities and stakeholders regarding the opaque deal struck with the Commonwealth. We remain in the dark about the specifics of the agreement and the amount of water New South Wales is committed to providing,” Ms. Cooke stated.

She further criticized the minister’s inaction in preparing structural adjustment packages for potential buybacks and the failure to address recent boil water notices in several towns and villages.

“The NSW Labor Government’s neglect of our communities’ basic needs is evident. They’ve squandered valuable time that could have been used to address critical water supply and security issues, especially in towns like Yass and Tamworth,” Ms. Cooke lamented.

She emphasized the urgent need for infrastructure funding to ensure safe and secure water supplies in schools, hospitals, homes, and businesses across the state.

“If the NSW Labor Government truly aims to support rural and regional communities, they must govern for the entire state and prioritize issues beyond urban centers,” Ms. Cooke concluded

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