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If you must sell water, make government pay

Community concern at the reintroduction of water buybacks continues to grow.

Numerous government and independent reports have highlighted the social and economic damage to rural communities from these buybacks, but the Speak Up Campaign says there appears very little care factor from the Albanese Government when it comes to protecting the future of effected regions, especially in southern NSW and northern Victoria.

“We are at the mercy of the Federal Government and welcome the ongoing support from Victoria and NSW State Governments,” said Speak Up Chair Shelley Scoullar. “We are hoping some common-sense prevails and the buybacks are abandoned, but we fear politics will ride high over the realistic and achievable alternatives which exist.”

Mrs Scoullar said many local farmers are in a difficult position. While on the one hand they would prefer not to sell their water, on the other they see it as an option to secure a financial future or use the funds for essential on-farm works.

“Last year’s floods have devastated some food producers who lost crops or could not get them harvested. They did not get the expected income, but now face huge repair costs for fencing, weed control and infrastructure repairs.

“For some, selling water will be the only option they have to save their farm.”

Mrs Scoullar said a major issue with buybacks was the damage to rural towns and businesses, with significant job losses and less money circulating in the economy. The proven flow-on effect is reduced numbers at local schools and therefore fewer teachers, closure of sporting clubs and a likewise reduction in a whole range of community services.

“Additionally, the buyback process is going to be extremely expensive for taxpayers. I believe in the Murrumbidgee region water prices have achieved up to $20,000 per megalitre, which equates to a massive $20 million for a gigalitre.

“The question is: For how long can the government afford to pay such a high price? We would encourage everyone who needs to participate in a buyback process to seek the highest possible price for their water. If Tanya Plibersek wants to impose these devastating buybacks on our community, let’s use up the Basin Plan funding as quickly as possible and put them behind us.

“In the current cost of living crisis and with funding needs around health, housing and social support, it is hard to understand why any government would want to waste money like this. It’s amazing what they will do to secure city votes.

“Governments already have massive amounts of environmental water; in fact, more than they can deliver. If the Federal Government was serious about our nation’s future and our regional communities, it would review the Basin Plan and work with local people to deliver the environmental results that can be achieved with collaboration,” Mrs Scoullar said.

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