In a time when the region’s water systems need as much support as possible amidst the Menindee fish kills and the ongoing debate surrounding the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, The Darling River Action Group (DRAG) on Tuesday closed its books, marking an end to some 20 years as the region’s preeminent water advocacy group to the Darling River and Menindee Lakes.
DRAG President, Ross Leddra, who ran the group along with Vice President Darryn Clifton, Secretary Don Stewart, and Treasurer Yvonne Stewart, told the Barrier Truth that after a decade in the position and an unsuccessful call-out early last month for fresh blood, prompted the decision.
“Darryn and I have been in it for well over a decade in our positions. We put it out there that we thought we’d been there long enough. It got a bit much. It is time consuming,” Mr Leddra said.
“We haven’t officially closed everything yet; we’ve still got it open for anyone that wants to take our place. But \we haven’t had anyone willing to do the job so, in a week or two at most, we’ll be winding it up on the business side of things.”
Mr Leddra confirmed there’s around $1500 remaining in the DRAG bank account and the group plans to donate the funds to the Menindee Regional Tourist Association, who had signified the need for a new defibrillator, with a plaque to read ‘Donated by the Darling River Action Group.’
“Naturally, you’re not getting a lot of funds and we only had 500 or so members so we didn’t get a lot of money in,” Mr Leddra said.
“Other than that, the trips, Darryn and I would pay out of our pocket. Plus, we’ll get back to where our family won’t hear the constant ringing of the telephones, we’ll get back to a semblance of family life – hopefully it’s not too late!”
While the private official members Facebook page will close as a result, a public Facebook page titled ‘Broken Hill, Menindee Lakes: WE WANT ACTION’ will remain. Both there and, on the ground, the activism will continue.
“Darryn and I will still be carrying on our work with the people of Menindee and along the Darling. We’ll still be meeting with people; politicians, bureaucrats, etc. and we’ll still be in touch, it’s just the business side will close”, Mr Leddra says.
Being involved in direct talks with government officials will stay with Mr Leddra and those that fought for the water and water systems as a legacy for DRAG, as he recalled the group’s beginnings.
“I hope [the lasting impact] is to have connectivity in the river system, regarding the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which we’ve had close talks with.
“We’ve knocked a few barriers down regarding draining of the Menindee Lakes. I hope we have more water in the lakes for longer periods and that we see a healthy darling river system,” he says.
“When we first took over, you never got invited to meetings and we were painted as a bit of a ‘stirring up’ group of people. We went to a few meetings; we invited politicians out… we got very close to a couple of scientists who gave us so much help on the technical side of it.
“We got to know various other groups from all parts of the Basin. We used to share information from up as high as Burke, from the [Australian] Floodplain Association right through to the Riverina and people at the Murray Mouth so we built up a bit of a network.
“We’ve done the hard yards under the state and federal Coalition, the National Party in particular. With the change of government, we’ve had meetings, we’ve had visits from Ministers of both state and federal, so things are looking up.