Murray-Darling Basin Authority needs a presence near Lower Lakes

Murray-Darling Basin Authority needs a presence near Lower Lakes

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie is calling on the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to have a permanent presence in the Lower Lakes and Coorong Region, ideally at Goolwa.

The MP has written to the MDBA Chair, Mr Neil Andrew, asking him to extend the Authority’s successful trial of Regional Engagement Officers to her region which encompasses the Lower Lakes and the Murray Mouth, two critical sections of the Murray-Darling system.

“While I welcome the recent opening of an MDBA office in Adelaide and the placement of an MDBA Regional Engagement Officer at Murray Bridge, the environment and the communities at the very end of the river face very different challenges and issues and they need their own representative,” Rebekha said.

“What’s more, given the deep concern in these communities about what is happening upstream with the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, having our own Regional Engagement Officer in our own area would go some way towards restoring confidence in the authority and its management of the river.”

Rebekha has recommended Goolwa as a logical location to base a Regional Engagement Officer or set up another MDBA office.

“Goolwa is right on the river, close to the barrages and the Murray Mouth and it is located within the Goolwa/Victor Harbor region,” Rebekha said.

“This region has a population of more than 25,000 residents, making it the third biggest significant urban area in South Australia and the second biggest outside Adelaide.”

The MDBA is scheduled to begin advertising for eight Regional Engagement Officers after recently completing a 12-month pilot program of the officer positions across the Basin.

The original six officers were hosted by partner organisations, such as local councils, and were based in river communities in Shepparton, north-east Victoria, Sunraysia, Western Riverina and Murray Bridge.

The MDBA is expected to extend the trial with more officers in the northern end of the Murray-Darling Basin.

In March 2017 the MDBA announced it would be expanding beyond its Canberra base to open offices in Adelaide in SA, Toowoomba in Queensland and Albury-Wodonga on the NSW and Victorian border as part of its ongoing commitment to increasing its regional presence.

“The feedback I am hearing about the Regional Engagement Officers program is that the trial has vastly improved the communication and relations between the MDBA and the river regions by enabling a two-way exchange of information,” Rebekha said.

“MDBA policy staff hear directly from the regions which better informs their work.

“This can only be good news for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the communities who rely on the river, and it’s something we really need at the very end of the system – at the Lower Lakes and Coorong.

“I have called on MDBA Chair Neil Andrew to consider our region as a priority location for an office or officer placement, and I will be raising the issue directly with the Water Resources Minister David Littleproud.”