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Basin Plan must be changed to save QLD towns

The long awaited Murray Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) Northern Basin socio-economic interim report paints a dark outlook for irrigation communities in Queensland’s South-West. For those communities reliant on irrigated agriculture, the fulfillment of the Basin Plan will result in significant job losses consistent with what has already occurred in New South Wales.

The long awaited Murray Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) Northern Basin socio-economic interim report paints a dark outlook for irrigation communities in Queensland’s South-West. For those communities reliant on irrigated agriculture, the fulfillment of the Basin Plan will result in significant job losses consistent with what has already occurred in New South Wales.

The report states that if fully implemented, the current legislated targets under the Basin Plan would have “quite large" and lasting socio-economic impacts in the Condamine-Balonne.

The report predicts that Dirranbandi will see a 23 per cent drop in farm sector employment and an 18 per cent drop in overall employment. Compounding the impact on the region, neighboring St George will likely experience a 9 per cent drop in employment. In reality, the relationship between these communities means that the likely impact of full water recovery is not clear, but it will be significant.

Effects of the proposed water buy backs are already being felt. Enrolments at the Dirranbandi State School have halved in the last year as workers and their families leave town. It is clear that unlike droughts, water buy backs have a lasting and permanent impact on communities.

The MDBA is yet to make a decision on how it will respond to the report and what recommendations it will make to government. The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) strongly recommends drawing a line in the sand on future buy backs and consider alternative complementary measures.

Measures such as mitigating cold water pollution from dams, fish passage over weirs, re-snagging, managing pests and invasive species such as carp, and land management activities in the riparian zone and in wetlands are all crucial to improving environmental outcomes in the Northern Basin.

QFF continues to be involved with the national ‘More than Flow’ campaign advocating for a more balanced Basin Plan to ensure Queensland's South-West irrigation communities are not wiped out.

Click here for more information

Post by Stuart Armitage, QFF President and Darling Downs cotton grower

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