Man-made drought draining Dirranbandi

Local businesses fear the future


Doubt looms: Dirranbandi Pastoral's Steve Burnett and Greg Nicol, Total Ag Services, Dirranbandi, have both noticed major business downturn since water buy backs began in the region.

Doubt looms: Dirranbandi Pastoral's Steve Burnett and Greg Nicol, Total Ag Services, Dirranbandi, have both noticed major business downturn since water buy backs began in the region.

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Dirranbandi businesses of all descriptions are feeling the pressure as the flow-on effects from water buy backs weave their way from the paddock to shop fronts.

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The impact of water buy backs in the Dirranbandi region has spread from the paddocks to town shop fronts, some of which have made the heart breaking decision to walk away.

Steve Burnett runs the Dirranbandi Pastoral Agency and works as a special agent for GDL and said every business house had wound down.

“I’m a stock and station agent so you’d think cotton wouldn’t affect me but right through the drought the only thing that kept us alive was selling town real estate,” he said.

“Four or five years ago you wouldn’t sell a house for less than $100,000 and now they’re selling for between $40,000 and $55,000. I had an aged client offer their house for $125,000 in favour of moving closer to medical facilities and they’ve since dropped the price to $90,000 but still haven’t had an inquiry.

“There’s just no confidence there for people to come here and everything is about confidence when you’re trying to get people to invest.

“You won’t find a more parochial community than this one and every time we look like picking up the ball and running with it we get cut down at the knees by outside intervention.”

Dirranbandi Total Ag Services agronomist Greg Nicol lost 30 per cent of his business over night and said the current situation was a man-made drought.

“I’ve gone from employing another agronomist, an office lady and a store man to just myself and I’m certainly not in a hurry to attract good staff because the uncertainty is still hanging over us and I can’t promise them longevity,” he said.

“If you employ someone you’re then responsible for their family and their livelihood and I take that very seriously.

“We’re low hanging fruit here- we’re a small population in a very safe Liberal seat and we don’t have an advocate.”

Mr Nicol said the environmental model was based on “completely flawed” science and a number of assumptions that decreased its validity.

“The MDBA admits some of the models and targets could be out by 60 per cent- these blokes are taking our livelihoods based on assumptions,” he said.

“As well as that they haven’t done anything with the water they’ve bought so far, they’ve just added it to the system with no attempt at range land management to control feral species like pigs, goats and foxes, so they’re just flooding the country with no environmental measurement.

“They need to be smarter with what they’re doing and make more out of less but it’s being run by people in Brisbane or Canberra who really have no idea of the backlash out here.”

Mr Burnett said he moved to Dirranbandi with Elders in 1988 and came to admire the community for its ability to “bat through the tough seasonal times and come out the other side on top,” but the latest blow was devastating.

“We’ve all got young families and they all want to be out here but it’s just one thing after another and when you keep getting bashed by governments it's hard for them not to wonder if they’d be better off somewhere else,” he said.

Mr Nicol said most unsettling was the lack of support from governmental departments or the MDBA.

“They all say they want to help but they haven’t lifted a finger. They come out and poke things at us but there’s been no attempt to actually sit down and talk and I strongly believe they should be looking at structural readjustment,” he said.

“Its been like feeding time at the zoo. A few senators come out and look to be making an effort to help but in reality they’ve just nodded their heads and kissed a couple of babies.”

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