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Lake Eyre basin consultation unearths rich vein of community frustration

AgForce’s community consultation on the State Government’s Lake Eyre Basin proposal has revealed a deep sense of frustration and disenfranchisement among Queensland’s regional communities about Government processes, policies and decisions.

With the final session at Blackall conducted yesterday, AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said people living in the State’s west were in utter disbelief that the State Government could exclude them from an important public debate in such a callous and calculated snub.

Around 200 people attended eight sessions conducted across the southern and central west of the State to find out more about the Government’s deliberately vague and shadowy proposal.

“The keen interest shown by these communities in the issue and their impassioned participation – despite the short notice dictated by the Government-imposed deadline and significant rain-related transport challenges – demonstrates the depth of feeling out there,” Mr Guerin said.

“The message that came through loud and clear was that the communities in rural and regional Queensland are frustrated, angry and basically fed up that not only are their opinions and expertise being ignored, they are actively being excluded from public process.

“These Queenslanders care about their communities and the amazing and unique landscapes in which they live – yet their invaluable local experience and knowledge, not to mention their right to have a say in decisions that affect them, are completely discounted.

“The Government’s lack of consultation on this issue is appalling, insulting, unforgiveable. It is not even clear what problem they were trying to address.”

Mr Guerin thanked the communities for their support and promised that AgForce’s “strong and clear” submission to the State Government, due on 14 February, would represent their collective voice.

“AgForce members are to be commended for championing this consultation, which was completely funded by AgForce from membership fees,” he said.

“A suggestion that was put to me again and again was that, seeing as AgForce conducted the consultation that the State Government should have been doing, we should present them with a bill for costs.

“I can’t imagine they would pay, but in a sense, the costs were an acceptable investment in ensuring marginalised communities in regional Queensland at least got to have their say.

“Anyone who wants to support rural and regional Queensland and call out this injustice for what it is, should join the Stand With Regional Queensland Facebook group to keep up to date and participate in the conversation.”

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