“We’ll pull down the farming sign”

Dirranbandi farmers question longevity in region


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Water buybacks may be the final straw for the Balonne Shire just as persistent dry conditions ease their grip on local communities.

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Tough times: Cr Fiona Gaske warns negative socioeconomic effects of water buybacks in the Balonne region will continue to be felt across all towns in the area.

Tough times: Cr Fiona Gaske warns negative socioeconomic effects of water buybacks in the Balonne region will continue to be felt across all towns in the area.

With a population of just 600 people the agricultural region of Dirranbandi has flourised, often against the will of Mother Nature, but farming’s existence in the area now faces a threat from common ground.

Irrigator Martin Sullivan, Tooroora, Dirranbandi, said he would “pull down the farming sign” if another round of water buybacks went through.

“Dirranbandi Ag Spares supplies everything from hardware to irrigation equipment and its owner has recently bought a business in St George because he seriously believes he won’t be able to sustain his business here,” he said.

“If that business closes we’ll have to make a 300km round trip just to buy a fitting. I’m not driving all the way to St George every time I need a hydraulic hose fixed, a 10 minute job, just to turn around and drive back.

“It just isn’t possible and we’ll give the farming job away.”

Mr Sullivan said St George machinery dealerships such as Case would also feel the effect of a decrease in farming with 50 per cent of their business drawn from Dirranbandi.

The MDBA released a socioeconomic analysis of the affect of water buybacks on northern basin communities on October 10, long overdue in the opinion of all stakeholders.

The report stated the effects on St George from the full 390 gigalitre water recovery scenario were significant at nine per cent reduction in total employment. Dirranbandi’s outlook appeared much bleaker with an 18 per cent reduction in employment.

Balonne Shire deputy mayor Fiona Gaske said with St George operating as the main service centre for smaller towns in the shire, social and economic effects were bound to be felt across the entire shire.

“Personally, I feel that St George is yet to feel the full effects of buybacks to date, however the numbers provided by the MDBA socioeconomic impact studies are already extremely concerning,” she said.

“If the MDB plan is fully implemented with water buybacks alone, the results will be devastating for not just St George and Dirranbandi but for our whole shire.

“The connection between the social effects and the economic effects should not be underestimated- it forms the fabric of our community.

“We need certainty and confidence and the only way to achieve this is for a recommendation where buybacks are ceased and other options to achieve environmental outcomes are explored.”

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