THE pain of Murray Darling Basin Plan water buybacks wouldn’t just be felt in smaller, irrigation-dependent Northern Basin towns like Wee Waa and Dirranbandi.
St George Deputy Mayor, Fiona Gaske and Moree Mayor, Katrina Humphries said bigger rural centres would be hit too.
Councillor Humphries said further water buybacks should be off the table in the Northern Basin, citing impacts to agriculture and flow-on consequences for communities.
“I’m horrified to think buy backs are still an option, they should be an absolute last resort,” she said.
“We must not and cannot allow anymore water to be taken out of the Gwydir irrigation system, we need to ensure our farming and grazing industries are maintained.”
Both Councillor Humphries and Councillor Gaske said further water buybacks would affect places like Moree and St George as they limit the ability for contract farming work, and on farm employment.
This would then create a “domino effect”, reducing the amount of people in town – leading to fewer numbers in schools, more empty shop fronts and less services.
Whilst councillor Gaske said school numbers hadn’t been affected in St George yet, small businesses have reported a loss of income since water buybacks have been occurring.
Neale O’Brien, owner of O’Brien Toyota, St george said whilst water buybacks haven’t been severe for his business, he has noticed a change.
With less water for irrigation, Mr O’Brien said he feared he would have to cut down staff to keep up with people leaving town and losing confidence in investing.
Councillor Gaske said she didn’t think further water buybacks were necessary as there was a lot of promise in The Healthy Head Waters Projects and The Murray Darling Diversification projects which could benefit the environmental health of the Basin without damaging communities.
Councillor Humphries said environmental outcomes could be achieved through other avenues such as farming technology and healthy river projects.