Our irrigators’ livelihoods demand an in-depth knowledge of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan’s complicated and detailed contents.
But there’s one aspect of the water policy ringing through the white noise of numbers, prices, borrowing and sharing even general residents in the MIA can understand.
The policy is the controversial planned recovery of an extra 450GL of water relied upon by MIA irrigators to make a living.
The major concern surrounding the move is the domino effect communities will suffer when we watch the water flow downstream.
Less water will inevitably mean less crops, less workers and less money spent in a region recognised by many locals to be struggling to maintain some sort of push towards growth.
A region built on ingenuity and meticulous discipline has been stumped by moving goalposts from policy built by government bureaucracy, and fuelled by chasing a healthier bottom line.
The subtle deviations of what should be symmetrical government policy and legislation was tipped by the NSW Murray-based Speak Up campaign head Shelley Scoullar.
Her group aimed to support communities impacted by the Basin Plan at a meeting in Deniliquin, where local input was sourced to help compile the recently released Ernst & Young study into efficiency measures in the Basin.
Government representatives outlined their interest in uncovering potential impacts of the 450GL up water plan, which, under legislation, is conditional on there being no adverse social and economic effects on rural communities.
“When we left, everyone I spoke to had the same opinion: the consultants had a predetermined view of what they were going to report and nothing we said, nor any facts that were put on the table, were going to change that...”
The study’s release saw the government pleased to announce the up water will see ‘neutral or positive’ effects on the current system.
Irrigators read between the lines, and say the findings were found to neglect facts, figures and face-to-face local feedback on the socio-economic impacts on our communities.
The study was ultimately a bittersweet moment for irrigators, saying its contents represent a government scrambling to justify a plan MIA irrigators have long said to be destined for failure.