LIVELIHOODS in the Balonne Shire are again under threat with a Disallowance Motion against the Murray Darling Basin Plan’s reduced 320GL retrieval to go to vote in the next two weeks.
Balonne Shire Mayor Richard Marsh and Deputy Mayor Fiona Gaske met with Labor senators Claire Moore, Anthony Chisholm, Christopher Ketter and Murray Watt in Brisbane on Wednesday in a last minute bid to gain their support for the recommended reduced retrieval figure.
The recommendation from the independent Murray Darling Basin Authority Northern Basin Review came under threat by South Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young in November last year when she tabled a motion to disallow the changes from the original 390GL.
It is understood Ms Hanson-Young had asked Labor and the crossbench for their support.
If the Disallowance Motion proceeds, predicted job losses will increase from 530 to 710.
Senate is set to sit from this Monday meaning the vote could be put forward anytime from now until February 14.
The approaching South Australian election in March is understood to be impacting the senate vote. Research favouring environmental impacts rather than the MDBA’s ‘triple bottom line’ of socio economic, environmental and science is also driving support to return to a 390GL retrieval.
But Cr Marsh said 320GL could benefit the environment as much as 390GL but without the impacts on their community.
“There is significant community damage in anything greater than what we have now,” he said.
“It has been significant already. To go that further 70GL will shut down a few things that shouldn’t be shut down.”
With horticulture rapidly growing in the area, the need for water assurance is paramount.
The pair are now seeking a meeting with Shadow Minister for Environment and Water, Tony Bourke, and also invited Senator Hanson- Young to come and visit the local community herself.
Minister Bourke declined to comment on which way his party would vote on the matter and said Labor always supported the review and understood that the Northern Basin had water flows that were more complex than the Southern Basin.
But, he had some concerns.
“I’m still working through the detail of the Northern Basin Review,” he said.
“I certainly have concerns about the level of consultation, the modelling and some of the differences in environmental outcomes.”
Both councillors said they were hopeful the decision would go in their favour but it was now a waiting game.
“We would like to believe that our elected members would put their communities at the forefront of their decision making,” Cr Gaske said.
“Our community has gone to great lengths to adjust to the recovery target of 320GL and are positioning ourselves to move forward with that in mind and it would be quite a blow to think that we would have to default back to the alternative.
“It is about confidence and it is about certainty and our business can have confidence if they know what they are dealing with.
“Make no mistake, livelihoods are at stake here.”
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation is urging community members and industry participants to voice their opposition to the Disallowance Motion by emailing senator and Labor leaders.
“Please contact as many of the below has you can, either with individual emails, or include multiple recipients in your email,” a press release said.
St George Cotton Growers’ Association president Drew Knights said programs like Healthy HeadWaters had benefited some operations but it was important for all the small towns that impacts were minimal.
“If you are removing a resource from a community like Dirranbandi it does hurt them which is disappointing,” he said.