Population and workforce declines in the vicinity of 50 per cent should ring alarm bells, but instead they get ‘sugar-coated’.
They should highlight the need for drastic action, but instead there are attempts to hoodwink the public and hide the true cause of the declines.
This refusal to accept the real impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is an ongoing penchant of its implementation body, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which continues to frustrate community based organisations like the Speak Up Campaign.
Its chairperson, Shelley Scoullar, said she was extremely disappointed with MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde’s response to its socio-economic data, released last week.
“Mr Glyde had an opportunity to highlight the damage being caused by the Basin Plan in some regional communities. Instead, his focus was on communities least affected. This is a common trend with the MDBA: It’s refusal to acknowledge adverse impacts of the Basin Plan.”
Mrs Scoullar said in the NSW Murray region the MDBA’s data showed population and workforce declines in the vicinity of 50 per cent in the Wakool region, from where 34.5 per cent of available water has been removed under the Basin Plan.
In other food producing communities in the Deniliquin region, declines in population and workforce of more than 30 per cent, which should be considered massive and totally unacceptable, have been reported.
Yet the MDBA chooses to focus on the Berrigan-Finley region, which has had less water recovery under the plan and has been more impacted by various other factors.
“We all know the Basin Plan is not the only reason for population and workforce decline in some areas, but there is no question it is the major reason. I fail to understand why we cannot accept this indisputable fact and work towards effective solutions.
“Can you imagine the uproar if we had population and workforce declines of 50 per cent in any Melbourne or Sydney suburb? It would dominate our media like no other issue. Yet in our communities it seems acceptable, even to the MDBA, which is a disgraceful attitude,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She added the frustration in these communities was at boiling point because sensible solutions are being ignored.
“Problems in the Darling, as well as Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth need localised solutions, not pouring huge volumes of water down the Murray River.
“Yet for political reasons these sensible solutions are ignored. Instead, governments with the apparent support of the MDBA are prepared to tear apart communities in the southern Riverina and northern Victoria.
“In the Murray Valley we’ve seen a 21 per cent decrease in dairying and a 30 per cent decline in rice production. The MDBA will blame various factors, including a move to cotton farming or almond growing, but this has only occurred because of increased water prices caused directly by the Basin Plan and water reform.
“We need to accept these realities, instead of constantly ignoring or sugar-coating them,” Mrs Scoullar said.
For further information or interviews: Shelley Scoullar phone 0414 960 785 or email firstname.lastname@example.org