News

Water Minister tours region

By Sophie Baldwin

Water Minister Keith Pitt took a whirlwind tour of the region on Tuesday, including a boat trip along the Barmah choke and a short stopover in Echuca.
The trip included discussions with stakeholders from the National Farmers Federation water committee, Murray Wetlands Working Group and Campaspe Shire Mayor Adrian Weston.
Mr Pitt said he wanted to take a firsthand look at the area.
"Today has been an exercise in listening and gathering up information,” Mr Pitt said.
He said he would be returning to meet with members of the farming community in the future.
"There is no way for me to secure 50 years of knowledge without 50 years’ experience,” Mr Pitt said.
"You utilise the resources around you that have the knowledge and experience, and you take that advice and make decisions after that."
Mr Pitt acknowledged basin communities were tired of reviews and commissions, and said he understood their frustrations but he was expecting an interim report from Inspector–General of Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources Mick Keelty to come across his desk soon.
"He is still out there performing his role,” Mr Pitt said.
"We have also got the ACCC inquiry looking at water pricing, which I expect to get somewhere in the near future — we will have to wait and see what recommendations have been made."
Mr Pitt said the Federal Government maintained its commitment to supporting the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and would continue to work with stake holders.
Speak Up deputy chair Lachlan Marshall said he was disappointed the visit did not include representation from the Murray Regional Strategy Group; however, he was pleased Mr Pitt toured the area.
"We called for the minister to make a visit to the region his top priority, which he has done, but this needs to be a first step,” Mr Marshall said.
"We have heard that he will be returning for a listening tour, so we will be in touch with his office to find out what date that will be.
"We need to ensure that he can hear firsthand accounts of how this Basin Plan is negatively impacting every aspect of the triple bottom line, and the opportunities which exist to fix the Basin Plan for everyone."
Cr Weston said Mr Pitt appeared interested in the area.
"We had a range of conversations, which included ecological implications, agriculture and a lot of conversation around productive outcomes for moving water through the system,” he said.
"I was able to address some of the key concerns in our region and appreciated Mr Pitt chose our region as the place for his first tour."