Balonne Shire Deputy Mayor Fiona Gasky has come up swinging after the Australian Senate voted against a recommendation by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) to reduce the water recovery target by 70 gigalitres in the Northern Basin.
Cr Gasky said the decision showed blatant “absolute ignorance” on behalf of the politicians behind it.
“I guess what I would say is that our community would be shocked and dismayed by the decision that was made, purely because it is completely illogical,” she said.
“It is illogical to think that they would reject what was a bi-partisan decision to include the Northern Basin Review in the Murray Basin Plan, and if indeed they claim they are committed to implementing the plan in full, then the NBR is part of that plan.
“Why would they reject a component of the plan, if they are indeed committed to implementing it?”
Cr Gasky said after years of research and consultation, it made “no sense at all”.
“To leave our communities in this situation. So much uncertainty, jobs lost – it is just – you cannot fathom it, you wouldn’t read about it,” she said.
“We’re shocked – we can’t believe it. It’s hard to plan for the future now. Where does it leave us? How is the government going to leverage infrastructure projects if the NBR isn’t there? Is all of that consultation, all of the time that we put into the MDBA all meaningless?,” she said.
“I guess we just don’t know where we stand anymore, and we feel completely neglected by the people who should have stood up for us who have not. They have absolutely left us in the lurch.”
She said the flow-on effect into the community is likely to be huge – with businesses, schools, and everything else to be impacted by the job losses especially.
“It’s not just about flow,” she said.
“It’s a rich tapestry of industry and economy that is created around this and to throw all of that out for the sake of political brinkmanship is disgusting and appalling to us.”
With corporate irrigators the government’s fall-back phrase following the decision, Cr Gasky said those politicians should visit the area and see the impact corporates have on the small communities.
The Australian Greens said billions of litres of environmental water have been “saved from the clutches of greedy corporate irrigators” through the dissallowance motion.
“We’ve cleared the first hurdle on the road to restoring the Murray Darling Basin Plan back to what it was meant to be; security for the river, and for the environment to get what it needs to survive,” Greens Murray Darling Basin spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“The Senate has stared down the bullying and scare tactics of big corporate irrigators and upstream states who for too long have turned a blind eye to water theft and corruption.
“This is a huge win for the community who have been crying out against the rorting that is rife in the Murray-Darling Basin. For too long every day Australians who live within the Basin have been ripped off, and the Greens won’t stand for it.
“The Murray Darling Basin Plan is being undermined by big corporate irrigators who care more about feathering their own nests at taxpayers’ expense, rather than making sure the river gets what it needs to survive. All over the Basin, I’ve heard horrific accounts of dried riverbeds, dying wildlife, algal blooms and water simply not coming out of the tap while greedy corporate irrigators get more than their fair share and authorities, including the New South Wales and Federal governments, turn a blind eye.
“Communities no longer trust the Murray Darling Basin Plan is working, and they can’t be assured that the Murray Darling Basin Authority, or the Federal Government are doing what is needed to get the Plan back on track.”
Cr Gasky said the comments showed “complete ignorance”.
“If Senator Hanson-Young knew anything about the corporate irrigators in our community, she would be aware of the fact that they are a big employer for our community,” she said.
“The fact that they do sponsor many events in our community, the fact that they provide industry and economy to our local community – I just think it’s disgusting to conveniently blame them for some political, Green, extremism.”