Basin communities are being left in the dark on buybacks with a secretive approach to information sessions in affected valleys.
It appears the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) emailed invitations to only a select handful of people today, giving them just 48 hours’ notice of sessions in Deniliquin, in the NSW Murray valley, on Wednesday.
The sessions have not been publicly advertised, are not on the DCCEEW website, and the emailed invitations do not allow anyone other than the recipient to register.
“It’s almost as if they are trying to dodge community fear and anxiety about the return to open tender buybacks after a decade,” said NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO, Claire Miller.
“We are left asking if this is just seriously disorganised, or worse. Perhaps DCCEEW doesn’t even realise what is at stake here, that the impacts of even less water to grow food and fibre go way beyond the farm gate, rippling right down the main street of these towns.
“The whole community deserves to be in the room. After all, buybacks hit the whole community – shopkeepers, truck drivers, jobs in food processing, restaurant owners, hairdressers, schools, hospitals, and sporting teams – not just farmers.
“So little notice and selective invitations are disrespectful to communities on the socioeconomic impact frontline of further water recovery.
“It is especially disrespectful when we were given to understand these sessions would also be an opportunity to consult communities on other options to land the Basin Plan.”
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan and earlier reforms have already removed one in three litres of irrigation water from these communities.
In the NSW Murray, the proposed 10 GL buyback satisfies a 2012 calculation of what would be needed to reach sustainable diversion limits.
“This is rather ridiculous now, given water use in the Murray (and every valley in NSW) is already well below its sustainable diversion limit anyway,” said Ms Miller.
“There are other ways to free up more water for the environment without buybacks. The Government asked for options and we gave them options, but so far they’ve ignored them and are sticking to buybacks despite the evidence this is the most damaging and divisive approach.”