Mildura Rural City Councillor Helen Healy

By VINNIE RODI

MILDURA Rural City Councillors have thrown their full support behind a Federal Royal Commission  investigation into the ongoing plight of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Councillors voted unanimously at Wednesday’s ordinary Council meeting to develop “a Water Position Statement related to water security and river health in the Murray-Darling Basin regions, and the impact on the human, economic, social and environmental well-being of our municipality.”

The immediate release of the following statement was also endorsed: “The future of our community lies with water security and river health for human, economic, social and environmental well-being.

“Mildura Rural City Council advocates for its community by calling on a Federal Royal Commission into the management and sustainability of water in the Murray Darling Basin with full remit to conduct an independent audit on water saving schemes, trading, ownership, extraction and allocation, and with the power to subpoena representatives, including politicians, government agencies and peak bodies.”

Councillors spent close to 40 minutes in chambers debating the exact wording of their position, which was originally put forward by Cr Helen Healy.

Cr Greg Brown and Cr Glenn Milne expressed concerns that Cr Healy’s original wording did not specify enough information regarding location, and that it made some claims around water management and drought conditions that Council could not back up.

Cr Gavin Sedgmen moved a motion containing amended wording, and after further – and at times heated – debate, Councillors agreed to the amendment, believing that it provided enough scope for Council staff to put in the necessary work.

Cr Healy said that the motion represented the next step that needs to be undertaken by Council.

“In view of the ongoing issues, and the number of bodies and councils calling for some real action in this area, it is important as a Council, as elected representatives, that we speak up for our community,” she said.

“In view of the impact on our community, and how critical water is to our sustainability and out well-being…. I believe this is something that is timely…”

Cr Anthony Cirillo said that with temporary water trading expected to reach $1000 a megalitre in the coming weeks, it was important the system is brought to account.

“Letting something like this continually lie (on the table) is the reason why this Council doesn’t have a water position after 10 years,” he said. “While nothing is perfect straight away, I’m comfortable that this motion allows us to do the work, get input from the community and key stakeholders.

“We need to show leadership on this issue, because it will knock this community for six… it will rock this municipality like it’s never been rocked before.”

MAV motions chosen

Meanwhile, Victoria’s current recycling crisis, the State’s review into its rating system and Council’s calls for a Federal Royal Commission into Murray-Darling Basin will form the basis of three motions set to be put forward by Council at the October 18 Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) meeting.

The first motion calls on the MAV “to strongly advocate to the Victorian State Government on behalf of all members as a matter of urgency, that they, in conjunction with private enterprise, initiate construction of a number of dedicated recycling facilities in regional areas…”

The motion goes on to suggest that these facilities should be capable of recycling plastics, paper, steel and other materials, and that the costs be met utilising the waste levy funds the Government is “currently holding.”

The motion further states that “each such facility could be dedicated to a separate waste category… should this approach be established as a cost-saving opportunity.”

The second motion endorsed by Councillors calls on the MAV to lobby the State Government to broaden the scope of its current Rating System Review.

The motion calls for the State’s review “to include an assessment of the fairness of using Capital Improved Value to determine rates and also the inequity between rural and regional councils compared to more financially viable metropolitan counterparts.”

It also calls for consideration to be given to reassessing the criteria applied to the Financial Assistance Grants Scheme.

The third motion calls on MAV to “advocate for its Murray-Darling Basin communities by calling on a Federal Royal Commission into the management and sustainability of water in the Murray-Darling Basin with full remit to conduct an independent audit on water saving schemes, trading, ownership, extraction and allocation, and with the power to subpoena representatives, including politicians, government agencies and peak bodies.”