The political hypocrisy that is prepared to sacrifice rural communities for untested environmental ideology had a large crowd stunned on Friday in Moama.
The damage to rural communities across northern Victoria and southern NSW from what was described as “an obviously flawed Murray-Darling Basin Plan” was highlighted at a forum organised by the Speak Up Campaign.
A host of speakers outlined why the plan lacks the balance which was promised during its planning and legislative implementation.
Population and workforce declines in rural communities of up to 50 per cent have been recorded since the Basin Plan started recovering water from food production for the environment.
However, questions were asked about the scientific evidence around how much environmental water is needed, and how much can physically be delivered before it starts causing flooding and associated damage.
The crowd of about 300 at the forum overwhelmingly supported the following motions:
●No further acquisition of water in the Southern Basin;
●Indisputably Balance the Plan - Prime Minister, Basin State Water Ministers and Premiers to meet with representatives from Speak Up so that balanced options can be presented on behalf of the grassroots community, as already outlined.
A video of former Water Minister Tony Burke, the architect of Basin Plan legislation, drew jeers from the crowd.
Mr Burke recently supported a disallowance motion that threatens to derail the plan, with Victorian Labor and NSW Coalition Governments stating they are prepared to withdraw from its implementation if water saving projects are not included.
Mr Burke and his Labor colleagues are also demanding an additional 450 gigalitres of water be recovered from food production despite his commitment, written into legislation, that this would not occur if there were adverse social and economic impacts.
Numerous studies have shown the impacts are considerable. The original Basin Plan water recovery target was 2,750 gigalitres, however before the legislation was passed in 2012 Mr Burke agreed at the last minute to South Australia’s demands for an additional 450, with the socio-economic proviso.
In a video clip shown on Friday of a 2012 speech by Mr Burke to the National Press Club, he supported total water recovery of 2,750 gigalitres and said:
‘‘There is a reason why 2,750 is the number they (the Murray-Darling Basin Authority) have recommended. And that is that once you go beyond 2,750 with the constraints that are currently in the system, for extra gigalitres of water you don’t get a significant environmental improvement.
“These capacity constraints create a challenge in using higher volumes of water and therefore the authority having to look at the system as it currently stands, quite rightly said, without those current constraints 2,750 is the number that we arrive at.’’
Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said the water forum highlighted a number of indisputable facts:
●The Basin Plan was prepared on the back of misinformation, for purely political purposes.
●There is indisputable social and economic damage that is far in excess of what modelling predicted, yet nothing is being done to redress the balance.
●The political promise that the Basin Plan would deliver a ‘triple bottom line’ balance between social, economic and environmental outcomes has been totally ignored and is not occurring.
●It is an indisputable fact that proposed water flows to South Australia under the Basin Plan cannot be delivered without causing floods to public and private property, at an enormous social and economic cost.
●The South Australian Government has continually refused to consider infrastructure solutions at the end of the system, despite numerous recommendations and evidence that they could help deliver a more balanced plan.
●Federal and South Australian Governments have refused to acknowledge that the Basin Plan is attempting to provide a freshwater solution to the end of system, despite it being traditionally estuarine.
●There have been negative environmental consequences associated with delivering the Basin Plan, but these are not adequately acknowledged by the MDBA.
Mrs Scoullar said the grassroots community members represented by the Speak Up Campaign, who are suffering under the ill-conceived and politically motivated Basin Plan, want their voices heard.
‘‘Our organisation looks forward to meeting with Prime Minister Turnbull, state Premiers and various state and Federal Water Ministers to express the views of our effected communities.’’