Not surprisingly, there was a strong reader response to our front page story on Friday under the heading ‘I Don’t Need Deni, Says Austin Evans’.
It was a disappointing statement by Mr Evans which perhaps, more than anything, highlights his political naivety.
He has only been in the job for a little over a year and it would appear has come to quickly realise that achieving the results his constituents expect in a political system dominated by his city-based colleagues is no easy task.
However, it is the career he has chosen and it is reasonable for our community, which Mr Evans represents in government, to expect our interests to be effectively delivered and results achieved.
From the feedback we have received, both before and after Friday’s edition, there is no doubt this community wants greater action in two key areas: water policy and health.
Poor water policy, which The Nationals have been complicit in developing, has had a massive adverse impact on our region. Action is needed to reverse this trend.
Solutions have been presented to Mr Evans and his colleagues, the latest being a water fund or pool that can underpin an opening allocation each year for our irrigators.
It could be funded through the massive windfall the government will receive from the Snowy Hydro sale, much of which has been promised to regional areas.
Mr Evans and his state leader, John Barilaro, agreed in early October that this proposal had merit, and only a fortnight later Mr Barilaro said “the Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair is already developing water strategies across priority valleys to determine the best solution for each catchment area”.
Yet there has since been nothing to suggest this region will benefit from any of these water strategies, either from Mr Barilaro or our local member Austin Evans.
We believe Mr Evans should be demanding (not politely asking) for action on behalf of the NSW Murray.
The other key area where Mr Evans and his party are letting us down is health.
While hundreds of millions of dollars are being found for major upgrades to the favoured northern part of his electorate, Deniliquin Hospital continues to be neglected.
The best we have is a ‘moderately good chance’ of a commitment for $1.5 million in works on the entrance and emergency department; works which health authorities said a year ago would proceed. Yet again, we’re still waiting.
On Mr Evans’ commitment to return sustainable timber harvesting to regional forests, we believe his Private Member’s Bill is little more than a political stunt. Mr Barilaro will not demand support from the city-based Liberals, who oppose the Bill because there may be backlash from environmental groups in their marginal seats. As a consequence it will go nowhere.
Which takes us back to water and health.
If Mr Evans wants our region to support him again at the NSW Government election next month he must take decisive action on both these key issues in coming weeks.
Announcing money for cosmetic projects like streetscapes and gardening works is welcome, but not enough.