Consistent marginal seasonal conditions have bred strength and resilience into the small but proud Dirranbandi community but the latest knock from a governmental level has placed the area on the brink.
Dirranbandi irrigator Frank Deshon, Nee-Nee, has become a spokesperson for the community as it faces the widespread impacts of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) water buyback scheme and said the community was in dire straits.
“So far we’ve lost 66 gigalitres to the MDBA and in that process we lost four irrigation farms creating massive flow on effects when you look at the hole that leaves in the local economy,” he said.
“The Murray Darling Basin Plan was put together and they said that under their assumptions this area was over allocated so they decided to buy back water from the area.
“They didn’t do any socioeconomic impact studies or any environmental water recovery projects to start with but they came into the market place offering a reverse tender and the community has been hit hard.”
Mr Deshon said some Dirranbandi and Hebel business houses and contractors lost 25 per cent of their business overnight
“We only had 13 irrigators to start with but they were larger holdings and the Murray Darling Basin socioeconomic plan shows more than 20 per cent of full time equivalent employees have left the area,” he said.
“The MDBA have always stipulated that they want a triple bottom line for the area, so they’ve got the water for the environment but we’ve seen nothing for the businesses that have lost their income stream- all we’ve felt is the harshness and the raw outcome of what has happened.”
Mr Deshon said a looming uncertainty hung over the region in the wake of the first water buybacks.
“We’re at 278 gigalitres for the northern basin now and the plan as it stands is to gather 390 gigalitres. As part of the 278 gigalitre collection this area contributed 66 gigalitres and if we go to 390 gigalitres, which is full implementation of the plan, we in the lower Balonne will have sold 143 gigalitres- double what is already gone,” he said.
“We fear the possibility the buybacks will become mandatory. The MDBA has promised everyone there’s going to be a positive environmental outcome from the buybacks and if they don’t achieve that outcome you don’t have to be Einstein to work out the next step.
“Water is a precious resource and so is community- if you don’t have a community you’ve got nothing and it’s water that holds it together.”