Talking water:  urgent need for a decentralisation policy

There are approximately 200,000 immigrants arriving in Australia each year and the majority settle in the already overburdened metropolitan areas.

Need for decentralisation 

The strain on our cities is apparent as traffic congestion and unaffordable housing dominates the news. Government policy however doesn’t encourage decentralization and resources are allocated to numerous city seats where political muscle is flexed.

The overall rural decline in NSW can be attributed to poor government policies which has ignored the importance of agriculture and manufacturing. Imports of cheap and substandard goods make it impossible for Australian businesses to compete, especially with the burden of costly inappropriate compliance at all levels of government.

Water woes

The NSW and Federal government have inflated the price of water with an average 900 per cent increase in temporary water in the last 5 years and in some cases have priced farmers out of production.

Even today with many rice bays sitting idle and on the back of full dams, allocations are approximately 33 per cent. The Murray Darling Basin Plan’s environmental flows have ravaged rural regional communities creating financial stress and uncertainty in many rural towns.

With the recent widespread rain, water rules and regulations hinder the rise in allocations as they are given to environmental water and provisional storage volume accounts.

If communities are to thrive and prosper then infrastructure needs to be appropriate and well targeted. Things like roads, rail, telecommunications, hospitals, schools and even entertainment.  The vast majority of the state’s budget infrastructure spend occurs in Sydney at the expense of the regions.

Uneven spending 

The latest spending plan for the Gladys Berejiklians’ government is to justify billions of dollars on moving the Powerhouse museum 20km and to scrap and rebuild the 17 year old ANZ sports stadium at Homebush.

What about the rest of NSW?

A decentralization policy with the associated funding for services is imperative if we are to grow and prosper. All wealth is derived from the earth through primary industries like mining and agriculture. The rest of the nation feeds off this and benefits.

As a first step to acknowledge rural regional Australia the relocation of government departments from Sydney or Canberra would allow bureaucrats and their children to have some knowledge of rural life and consider the impact of their decisions carefully.

Perhaps finally they may realise the massive contribution that rural regional Australia make to the wealth of the country and perhaps we will receive our “two cents worth”.   

Helen Dalton and Deb Buller write fortnightly opinions for The Area News.

Helen Dalton is a Binya farmer. She recently stood as a candidate for the Shooters, Farmers and Fishers party at the recent Murray by-election. 

Debbie Buller is a Murrami rice grower and long-time water advocate