Mayoral Column 19 February 2018

Published on 19 February 2018

Murray River Group representing irrigation industry’s interests

In an earlier column this year, I highlighted Loddon Shire’s membership of the Murray River Group of Councils (MRGC) and how it is a great privilege to be Chair of the MRGC for the coming year.

The MRGC membership also includes Mildura and Swan Hill Rural City councils, as well as Gannawarra, Campaspe and Moira Shires.

The MRGC regional economy is largely based on water for agriculture, food processing and tourism. Agricultural and food processing production is worth around $2 billion per year.

Therefore, unsurprisingly, one of the MRGC’s priorities is water – including the balanced implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

There has been a lot said about the Basin Plan this past month (and week), including the release of a declaration by a group of scientists regarding the Plan. This declaration   wrongly asserted that investment in irrigation infrastructure is only providing benefits to irrigators, not the environment.

As emphasised by the MRGC in a media release in response to the declaration, the Murray Darling Basin Plan has seen the recovery of around 2100GL of water from irrigation. This includes 700GL of entitlements transferred to the Commonwealth from infrastructure investment.

This water recovery has had a significant impact on our communities, particularly in relation to the water buybacks. 

Investment in irrigation infrastructure is the best way to recover water without decimating the industries of our region and the tens of thousands of people who depend on them for their livelihood.

Recovering more water from northern Victoria puts the viability of entire industries and irrigation districts at risk during the next extended dry period, which may not recover. 

The Basin Plan is a complex long-term plan, which won’t be fully implemented until 2024. The Murray Darling Basin Authority itself continually states that it’s too early in the process to see wholesale environmental benefits but that early indications are positive.

At the time of writing this column, machinations in the Federal Senate make the future of the Basin Plan uncertain. However, it is the intention of the MRGC to continue to work constructively with governments around the implementation of the Plan to represent the interests of our communities.

New resources for our community

Loddon Shire Council’s Community Support team have released new resources for residents – In an emergency, what is your plan? and Hello Neighbour.

The In an emergency, what is your plan? resource aims to help raise awareness in our community around being prepared for an emergency.

The resource emphasises that emergencies can happen at any time and can affect us, our families and our community. It sets out five important steps to help plan, prepare and act in case of an emergency: knowledge, have a plan, be connected, safety and wellbeing and information.

The resource was developed in conjunction with emergency services, as well as the City of Greater Bendigo, Shire of Campaspe, Central Goldfields and Mount Alexander shires.

The Hello Neighbour resource highlights the need for community members to get to know their neighbours and look out for each other. It lists eight steps around getting to know your neighbour, from knocking on the door or leaning over the fence to say hello, through to inviting your neighbours for a meal or cuppa.

The resource also reminds residents to check on a neighbour during extreme heat and help a neighbour prepare for a possible emergency.

Both resources are available from the Council’s Wedderburn office, Wedderburn Community Centre and will be distributed to all community houses and library agencies across the Shire. They’re also available online at www.loddon.vic.gov.au or from Council’s Facebook page.

Upcoming collaboration workshop to help businesses

Businesses in the Loddon Shire are invited to attend the Loddon Valley Collaboration Workshop in early March at Wedderburn’s Coach House Museum.

It follows on from the first Loddon Valley Collaboration Workshop held in early December last year, which generated a number of ideas around increasing awareness, visitation and overnight stays in the region.

The upcoming workshop will further build upon initiatives developed from the December session and discuss how businesses can share ideas and resources, and promote each other to increase awareness.

All businesses across the Shire are encouraged to attend the workshop, which will take place on Monday 5 March at 6pm at the Coach House Museum, 55 High Street Wedderburn.

The evening will include a tour of the museum at 6pm, dinner at 6.30pm and the workshop from 7pm to 9pm. The cost is $20.00 per person.

For more information or to register your attendance, please contact Sandra Steel at the Loddon Visitor Information Centre on 5494 1257 or email ssteel@loddon.vic.gov.au by Tuesday 27 February 2018.