Harvest weary farmers in the Dirranbandi district say the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has delivered a killer blow to their community this week by announcing plans to remove another 35 gigalitres (GL) of water from the Northern Basin.
On Monday, MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde revealed a proposal to reduce the water recovery from agriculture in the Northern Basin from 390GL to 320GL but confirmed that it would require another 35GL to be removed from the Northern Basin.
66GL has already been recovered from northern irrigators and local business owners say the impact on farming businesses and farm service providers in towns like St George and Dirranbandi has been devastating.
Smart Rivers president, Frank Deshon has been working around the clock to pull off his wheat and chickpea crop this week but stopped to provide his reaction to Monday’s announcement.
“I was totally gutted,” he said.
“It shows a total lack of respect for the businesses of Dirranbandi. Their (the MDBA) own modeling showed what the impact on our region was but they have gone ahead and done this.
“I just get a sense of sheer arrogance and a total disconnect with the Lower Balonne. This review is totally weighed in favour of the environment.”
I just get a sense of sheer arrogance and a total disconnect with the Lower Balonne.
Mr Deshon said the news could not have come at a worse time.
“Christmas and the holidays are coming up. Farmers are flat out with harvest and are short staffed. Summer planting has started. It’s hit people very hard.”
Mr Deshon called upon MDBA leaders to “front up” to meetings planned for the Northern Basin next month.
“I want them to explain to locals where and how they intend to get this water,” he said. Click here to find dates for next month’s consolation meetings.
“We still don’t know if it will be through forced buybacks or water efficiency means. Obviously we’d prefer the latter because we really need to maintain our productive capacity.”
Greg Nicol runs the local farm services business, Total Ag Services Dirranbandi. He purchased the business nine years ago and estimates his turnover is down about 30pc because of the water recovery undertaken so far.
“If they take the same amount of water again I’m just not sure how businesses will survive,” he said.
Mr Nicol said he was angry that the Queensland water minister, Anthony Lynham, hadn’t fought harder for the region.
“I haven’t heard boo from him - no one in this community has heard from him,” he said.
“This might seem like a Lower Balonne issue but it is certainly a Queensland and even a national issue because there aren’t too many industries that drive the economy like agriculture.”
One politician who is not missing in action on the issue is Balonne Shire Deputy Mayor, Fiona Gasky.
Cr Gasky is also dismayed by Monday’s announcement and said she feared there was “more pain to come” for local communities.
“I would hate to see a situation where because one state was unhappy that we would go back to that default position of 390GL,” Cr Gasky said in reference to the response from the South Australian government this week.
“We are talking about people’s lives here.”
She also called on Minister Lynham to support Queensland farmers.
“We can’t just conceded to one state because they are terribly unhappy with a recommendation.”