Pictured: The vast area of the Murray Darling Basin.
The Independent Panel assessing social and economic conditions in the Murray Darling Basin has announced that Coonamble will be on their list of towns to visit.
A budget boost last Wednesday 25 September brought the federal government’s investment in the Panel’s work to $3.2million which Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud said would ensure the Panel could consult widely and independently.
“It will mean the Panel can make up its own mind about what research it needs,” Minister Littleproud said.
“The Panel will have the resources required to get a lens on the Basin and get on with its job.
“This will also keep the Panel’s work at arm’s-length of Government.
“As a first step the Panel will hold a series of public meetings and run an online survey so people living in the Basin can have their say.
“The terms of reference cover positive and negative impacts of water reform and drivers of change.
“This Panel’s work will look at how communities are changing and their future.
“It will also come up with strategies to support communities to adapting to change.”
By 18 October the Panel will have held public drop-in sessions in twelve communities and a further twenty-six Roundtable Meetings in towns across the Basin.
As the seven-member Panel’s exhaustive travels near the end, Coonamble’s Roundtable, which was originally planned to be held in Quambone, is scheduled for the afternoon of 17 October following a morning session in Warren.
“Ten to fifteen people is ideal at the Roundtables,” said Panel Chair Robbie Sefton. “But at the moment we’ve got forty-two on the list for Coonamble.”
“Some of those might transfer to Warren or Walgett,” she said.
A public session is not planned for Coonamble or surrounding towns with the nearest drop-ins to happen in Bourke and Moree.
“We felt that for places like Coonamble, Walgett and Warren, no-one goes there enough so it was important to have a proper meeting,” Mrs Sefton said.
“We want to hear from people who don’t normally get heard,” she said. “We need to look after our small communities and understand what drives them.”
The Roundtables will follow the Panel’s Terms of Reference, addressing the Seven Key Questions, with attendees to receive a package of information ahead of the meeting so they can arrive well-informed.
Mrs Sefton says Coonamble, Gilgandra and Warrumbungle Shire representatives have been invited, along with farmers, a nurse, TAFE rep, residents from Quambone and the Macquarie Marshes areas, Mackillop Rural Community Services, a stock and station agent, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce and a banker.
“It’s really important that people feel they can say what they want to say,” Mrs Sefton said. “We want to understand what are the visions and hopes of Basin people and their communities.”
“We also want to know what they want government to do,” she said. “We’re there to listen and be a conduit of information.”
With numbers limited for the Roundtables, the Panel is making sure other opportunities are available. Written submissions are welcome and all community members are able to participate in a survey at www.basin-socio-economic.com.au.
Mrs Sefton says the Panel is “looking back” to understand conditions, key trends and drivers of change over the past ten years or so but will also be “looking forward” using complex integrated economic modelling.
“We’ll just do our best,” Mrs Sefton said.