Farmers want a voice: Seqwater promises better communication
FARMERS whose properties border the region's two largest drinking water dams, Wivenhoe and Somerset, just want to be heard.
Seqwater hosted what it called a listening forum at the Somerset Civic Centre to discuss the grazing leases held for land at the dams.
Chief executive Peter Dennis said a range of issues were raised including the need to better improve communication between the organisation and lessees.
Mr Dennis said Seqwater would establish a "one-stop shop'' to give lessees a single point of contact.
Carli McConnel, whose family has owned Mt Brisbane Station on the edge of the Wivenhoe for 100 years, says it's high time to restore communications.
One of earliest settled properties in Queensland after being taken up by the Bigge brothers in 1842, Mt Brisbane Station covers 4500 hectares in the Brisbane Valley.
Mrs McConnel and her family have run a Droughtmaster cattle stud there since the 1970s.
She said she was on the consultative committee that used to meet at least three times a year and liaise with Seqwater's predecessor.
"That's drifted off the last couple of years," Mrs McConnel said.
"We are the ones that pushed for the meeting."
She said the main issue was the treatment of people who held short-term leases on the edges of Lake Wivenhoe.
"Some people have held them for 20-30 years and they've looked after the land but one man was just thrown off last year," she said.
"There are some very good people living around the lake. We're not raping and pillaging the land. We don't feel we're getting heard."
Mrs McConnel said the discussion process at the forum was restrictive - to say the least.
"We had to write our questions on a post-it note and stick it on a sheet of butcher's paper," she said.
"There were only three questions - what did they do well, what didn't they do well and what could they do better. Everyone we've spoken to was anything but happy with the meeting.
"They said we've been through this 100 times before. Things can only get better. Fingers crossed.
"We're reforming the Wivenhoe Lessees Committee. That one we can have a smaller number of people dealing with them.
"Agforce are helping us. We'll meet and find out people want; it stands to reason not everyone has the same issues.
"We need absolute honesty."
Mr Dennis said he hoped the forum was the first step to repairing and restoring the communication between Seqwater and the farmers.
"Grazing lessees are important stakeholders in the management of our drinking water storages,'' he said.
"We are committed to working in partnership with our lessees to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
"We both need to understand each other's requirements and priorities.
"Good two way communication is fundamental to a successful working relationship."
He thanked lessees who attended the forum, saying he shared their views and believed the forum had provided Seqwater with a great opportunity to listen to issues of importance to lessees.
"Seqwater has undergone significant changes over the past couple of years including mergers, restructures and changes to personnel,'' he said.
"These sorts of forums are just the start of developing strong and productive relationships moving forward.
"We will now work in partnership to address the current issues and implement future opportunities."