Water protests planned for Tuesday

Farmers are rallying on Tuesday to protest the Federal Government’s attempt to legislate more water buybacks.

The message that a re-written Murray-Darling Basin Plan will cost thousands of jobs and take almost $1 billion from agriculture in the basin is driving protests in three NSW towns this week.

Protests are planned for Tuesday, November 21 at noon in Deniliquin, Griffith and Leeton.

The demonstrations have been organised by Edward River Council, Griffith City Council, Leeton Shire Council, NSW Farmers, National Farmers’ Federation and Edward River Basin Community Group

NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin said the protests were to force the Federal Government to listen to farming communities before legislation to rewrite the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is voted on in the Senate.

He said farmers, businesses and communities were facing “devastation” if the changes become law and more water buybacks become reality.

“We are vehemently opposed to this bill, and rather than come and talk to us they hid in Canberra and held hearings,” Mr Martin said.

“Authorities are already wrecking rivers with too much water, eroding banks, killing trees and flooding properties, and the government’s bright idea is to buy even more water — and do it with taxpayer money.”

VFF Water Council chair Andrew Leahy criticised buyback supporters who claimed the scheme was based on the ‘best available’ science.

“The truth is that it is all about federal politics and nothing about science and nothing about good public policy,” Mr Leahy said.

“It’s time our leaders stopped playing political games and focused on delivering solid policy that makes a real difference to people’s lives.

“The truth is that a reputable report from a leading independent firm concluded that if 750 Gl was purchased, we will see an $850 million loss per year in agricultural production.”

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar said she encouraged people who could ‘down tools’ on Tuesday to attend the rallies.

“We still find it almost impossible to believe that unchecked buybacks are back on the agenda, after so many reports which show the damage they cause to our local economies and the people who suffer,” Mrs Scoullar said.

“We have been fighting various aspects of the basin plan for over a decade, but when the job losses and personal hurt from previous buybacks became so obvious, we at least thought this was not a battle that would have to be fought again.

“The stakes are high.”

There will be a range of speakers at the rallies who will outline the evidence of water buybacks damaging communities.

Business operators have been encouraged to close their doors or run on a ‘skeleton staff’ for a short time on Tuesday so employees can attend the nearest rally.

“It is vital that we stand strong and united in opposing this blatant attempt to secure South Australian and city-based environmental votes at our expense,” Mrs Scoullar said.

The Deniliquin protest will be held at the Deniliquin Multi-Arts Centre precinct.