PLAN A STUFF UP FROM START
I have read reports, and watched news regarding the problems relating to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and am sorry for the number of people who are worried by the mess which has occurred, and the lack of water for irrigators.
But, if anyone of these people had taken the time to read and query the first discussion paper put out by the state government regarding proposed changes to the Murray-Darling system, they would have had the opportunity to do what they are trying to do now - protest and fight to stop the government's plans.
That White Paper set out clearly what was going to happen and I for one was horrified and went through it, paragraph by paragraph setting out what I saw as the problems which would occur if it went ahead.
For instance; there should have been no separation of the water from the land. There should have been no decision to sell water rights.
There was no explanation of how they would rate a property which sold its water rights - would it then be dry area in an irrigation rated area?
And what was going to happen if a farmer sold his rights, whilst the farms on either side retained theirs - how did they propose to ensure that the "dry" farm did not "accidently" use water.
And once traded, how was it possible to stop the licenses being bought en masse by corporations, owners of large properties - or even overseas companies.
It was obvious to me that farmers would not be willing to pay exorbitant prices to secure water from investors.
The basic problem was highlighted when a TV investigation showed how water was being taken through broken pumps, meters which were not working etc.
The establishment of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has resulted in the price of water, which has always been a God-given right and priced to cover costs, rising to ridiculous heights and leaving irrigators desperate because they can't get enough to grow a decent crop.
The proposal to change the Plan so that a per cent of the water was retained for the environment caused more problems.
That White Paper was at least four or five foolscap pages and there were many paragraphs of how the scheme was supposed to be going to be the best thing since sliced bread. Well the bread is stale.
And none of the paragraphs covered any plans that I would have agreed to - they all left the scheme open to the sale of water at exorbitant prices and there was no system in place to stop either accumulation of licenses by one person/firm or overseas businesses buying our water.
I recall that one Australian company had accumulated 31 licenses while Irrigation farmers in this area were fighting to get water.
And I now know of one farmer who could not get an allocation to fill the farm dam - and they pumped from this to flush the toilet!
As I had gotten the paper through the CWA, I was stopped from writing to newspapers because "the CWA is non-political". And many whom I tried to warn of what would happen all thought I was wrong in my assessment and "worrying unnecessarily."
I then sent my dissertation on the paper to the rice board, which at least replied. They thanked me for my interest but "the matter is under control, thank you".
Now I watch with disappointment and dismay as people have meetings where they complain about the system while it has been left in the hands of the state minister for whatever who has taken the advice of a committee made up of politicians and lobbyists who came, looked, didn't listen and went on their merry way.
And when I hear of another stuff up - the government turning down that donation of thousands of gallons of water (collected by a private citizen) - and preferring that it be sold, I grind my teeth - I can just see farmers using money to water their animals, to have a shower or clean their teeth.
I wonder sometimes what happens between a good idea and the mess up that this Basin Plan has become.
Betty Brady, Griffith
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