Senator visits Griffith, hears concerns of locals

A SENATOR made a flying visit to Griffith this week to announce a raft of new water policies and canvass the concerns of local irrigators and authorities.

Parliamentary secretary to the minister for the environment Simon Birmingham yesterday announced 40,000 megalitres of water will be allocated in the lower Murrumbidgee to help protect the area's wetlands, a new water purchase round and new local engagement officers to work directly with Murray-Darling Basin communities.

Flanked by senior management from Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI) and Riverina MP Michael McCormack, Mr Birmingham inspected the beginning of the Lake Wyangan channel system which will be shut down between May and August for ongoing renovations.

"I've come here to get a better understanding of how to implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan policy in the best way," Simon Birmingham said.

"I'm all ears to hear how on-farm and MI programs and buybacks could all be improved to create better outcomes for local communities and taxpayers.

"I have been speaking with the MI board, Coleambally Irrigation, Mayor John Dal Broi, Debbie Buller from Murrumbidgee Food and Fibre Association and other key community stakeholders who all relayed their concerns about water.

"The strong message is government sees we have an important role in the productive capacity of this region."

The government is focused on infrastructure as it works toward implement the Basin Plan in line with its commitment to a 1500 gigalitre cap on buybacks.

Local member Michael McCormack praised the senator for his no-nonsense approach to local water.

"The government knows this great food bowl is key to feeding the Asian middle class, which is why Simon has come here to learn and take on local concerns," Mr McCormack said.

"Simon got NSW to come to the table on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, which didn't happen under the previous government's ad hoc buybacks which had a detrimental effect on this area."

The new water purchase round will be open until 5pm on April 28 for interested water entitlement holders and application forms can be accessed from www.environment.gov.au/waterpurchasing or by calling the Water Information Line on 1800 218 478.

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