Buy-backs will hurt our towns

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Further government buy-backs of water licences from irrigators will hurt the general Southern Riverina community almost as much as irrigation farmers, says Shooters, Fishers and Farmers (SFF) Murray candidate Helen Dalton.

Mrs Dalton’s comments come after Federal Labor Shadow Water Minister Tony Burke said he wanted to lift restrictions on government purchases of water licences.

‘‘Our party is totally against lifting the cap on buy-backs,’’ Mrs Dalton said.

‘‘Every drop of water our community loses is like losing a drop of employment, a drop of health care, or a drop of education.

‘‘It won’t just hurt irrigators, the flow on effects are enormous.

‘‘If we lose water, we’ll lose jobs, and even more people will leave towns like Deniliquin, Finley, Moama and Wentworth. Housing prices will crash.’’

Buy-backs are justified as a way to improve river health, but Mrs Dalton said there’s little evidence this has happened.

‘‘Let’s look at the most famous buy-back of all time.

‘‘In 2017, the National Party signed off on using $78 million of taxpayer money to buy water licences from Tandou Station, near Broken Hill. This gave a private company a $37 million profit, from all of us.

‘‘Yet what happened to all that government environmental water? Lower Darling communities have been left high and dry.

‘‘When it comes to buy-backs, let’s judge the NSW Government on what they’ve done over the past eight years, not on what they say during an election campaign.’’

Mrs Dalton said the Nationals, Liberals, Labor and the Greens have all signed off on sending large volumes of NSW water off to South Australia.

‘‘Only SFF has consistently opposed government water buy-backs. If we share the balance of power after the election, we’ll insist on no more damaging government buybacks.

‘‘We can’t continue with water recovery targets while so much environmental water is lost and much of the Northern Basin remains unmetered.’’

Mrs Dalton said SFF has a solid 10-point strategy to improve water management, which includes a five-year pause on the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

‘‘SFF believes by properly measuring all water use, eliminating corruption and shifting decision making to local communities we can both restore river health and enhance the vital role irrigation plays in our economy,’’ she said.

Mrs Dalton is one of 10 candidates standing in the NSW Murray electorate. She is expected to be incumbent Member for Murray Austin Evans’ biggest challenger.