Council heads to Canberra to talk water buy backs
“Enough is enough” was the clear message delivered as the Balonne Shire Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Chief Executive Officer confronted key political players over the recommendation to pursue further water buy backs in the Balonne area.
“We didn’t go there asking for a handout. It was primarily an opportunity to personally tell our story and focus on sustainability,” said Balonne Shire Mayor Richard Marsh. “We need the politicians who are making decisions about our community’s future to hear our message first hand.”
In its current form, the Murray Darling Basin Plan seeks to recover 390gL of water from the Northern Basin, which includes the Balonne Shire. The Northern Basin Review, which was released late last year, recommended the target be reduced to 320gL, however the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is yet to finalise review submissions and present their findings to the Minister.
While the Council still advocates against any further water buy backs, it took a solutions and future focused approach to the political visit.
Discussions with the Ministers centred on ideas to move forward in spite of the social and economic effects of water buy backs.
Deputy Mayor Fiona Gaske said Council wanted to focus on ensuring the sustainability and future prosperity of all the basin communities.
“After all, it is a key part of the Murray Darling Basin Plan,” she said.
Council met with Sen. Hon. Anne Rushton (Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources), Sen. Hon. Fiona Nash, representatives from Pauline Hanson’s Office, Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Barnaby Joyce and others during the whirlwind visit.
MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde indicated to Council that a recommendation would likely be made to the Minister in April.
Councillor Marsh said he hoped the Northern Basin’s recommendation of 320gL would stick.
“Our communities simply can’t afford the Murray Darling Basin’s original recommendation,” he said.
The response to Council’s proposals on investment in other industries was positive in spite of the lack of any financial commitment.
“It’s possible that investment in sheep, wool and tourism could be options to diversify the local economy and we will continue to pursue funding to resource the necessary infrastructure,” concluded Cr Marsh.
Caption: Balonne Shire CEO Matthew Magin, Mayor Richard Marsh, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, Deputy Mayor Fiona Gaske and Federal Member for Maranoa David Littleproud