FARMERS are gathering today in Melbourne in a park near Victoria’s parliament house to protest as federal and state water minister gather to discuss the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
They have been driven to protest by the fact “their communities are being devastated by a Basin Plan that hugely underestimated the job losses, social impacts, mental health and lost prosperity in rural towns,” said organiser Shelley Scoullar.
“We want to be heard. We want the ministers to listen to our concerns and understand that we are hurting,” explained said Ms Scoullar, from the Speak Up Campaign.
“We also want to talk to them about ways we can help build a plan that protects the environment, as well as our communities.
“They are talking about the future of our homes, our jobs, our friends and neighbours. We know their bureaucratic advisers are only going to treat us like numbers in their modelling; they’ve shown us time and again they do not care what happens to rural Australia,” she said.
“So we are here today pleading with the ministers to listen to us, work with us on solutions and protect our communities and people,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She said significant issues had developed across numerous areas of the Basin Plan, which was drafted with insufficient time and inadequate modelling.
“The impacts on some of our rural towns have been disastrous, with job losses of up to 50 per cent, which is unacceptable in anyone’s language.
“The job losses that were predicted by the MDBA in its modelling are a joke; the trouble is, we’re not laughing.”
Mrs Scoullar said rural communities are calling for empathy from the water ministers who should put politics aside and govern for the entire Basin, not just parts of it.
“Communities in the southern Basin, especially those in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria, have been treated with contempt by the commonwealth government, its water department and the MDBA.
“Today’s meeting needs to reset the agenda. For the benefit of the environment, regional communities and cultural needs it is time to catch our breath.
“We don’t support any further water recovery, because we are yet to be convinced that the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder can deliver the massive quantity of water it already owns without causing impacts that are feared by many people living along the river banks and tributaries.
“Let’s get the best bang for taxpayer dollars by ensuring we get the best result for the environment while protecting rural communities,” Mrs Scoullar said.