Border Rivers irrigators have been told the Federal Coalition will continue to “back them” on the issue of water buybacks under the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) plan.
Goondiwindi residents on their way to work may have been surprised to see a press conference down town in Marshall Street this morning.
Holding court with television, radio and print media crews was the Deputy Prime Minister and Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Joyce made the flying visit to Goondiwindi at the invitation of the member for Maranoa David Littleproud.
He had earlier meet with some of the districts leading irrigators to discuss the potential impact of water buybacks in the Border Rivers catchment.
Mr Joyce assured local irrigators the Coalition understood how vital water was to towns like Goondiwindi, St George, Dirranbandi and Dalby and the socio-economic effect it has on those communities.
“These people have backed me in the past and I’m going to make sure we back them and do what we can to help them,” Mr Joyce said
We are trying to land this.
“We are trying to land this (Murray Darling Basin Authority plan) in such a way we get the least amount of socio-economic impact.
Mr Joyce said confidence was a foundation to continue a rural turnaround in south west Queensland .
“Look at cattle prices, meat-sheep prices, wool prices, we’ve had the biggest pay off of loans,” Mr Joyce said.
“We’re driving the inland rail to make sure we get that corridor of commerce. It’s going to be a boon for places like Goondiwindi.”
Mr Joyce said his major desire is to get the MDB plan “passed and landed” by both Houses of Parliament.
He said he had to deal with a water buy back proposal that was handed to him by a previous government.
The Deputy PM’s visit comes just days before South Australian Senator Nick Xenophon is due to meet with irrigators at St George and Dirranbandi.
Mr Joyce congratulated Maranoa MP David Littleproud for his work with the Senate to explain the pressures on communities such as Dirranbandi and St George.
Mr Littleproud said it was necessary for the government to have the support of Mr Xenophon.
He said Senator Xenophon’s tour of farms at St George and Dirranbandi was an opportunity to see first hand how vital water was to the community.
The Goondiwindi Regional Council also met this morning where councilors reiterated their support to keep water recovery at its present level of 278 gigalitres, as opposed to raising the recovery target to 320GL.
The GRC has called the possible damage to communities in the northern region as “catastrophic”.
Recently Border Rivers Food and Fibre executive officer Tim Napier submitted a similar argument to the MDBA Taskforce, which was set up by Mr Joyce to look in to the impact of the proposed plan.
“There are legitimate ways to still get environmental improvements we all want without damaging our country towns,” Mr Napier said.
The preferred option by the MDBA appears to be 320GL.
There are legitimate ways to still get environmental improvements we all want without damaging our country towns.
Ironically it will mean the Queensland region from Goondiwindi to Mungindi will be worse off than if the review recommended taking back 390GL, by 6GL.
However, Mr Joyce sounded upbeat about finding a solution for those concerns.
Instilling confidence in those towns hardest hit by the MDB plan is vital according to Southern Downs member Lawrence Springborg.
Mr Springborg said Goondiwindi was seeing the other side of confidence with good seasons and rain having an obvious impact.
Consultation on the MDB plan has closed and stakeholders are awaiting the final recommendations.