21 May, 2020
Resolute Leadership on Water Applauded
Former Balonne Shire Mayor Richard Marsh has been commended for the strong leadership he displayed during the restructuring of the Murray Darling Basin system which threatened the viability of the Balonne Shire.
Current Mayor, Samantha O’Toole, presented Mr Marsh with a recognition plaque for his contribution to the Murray Darling Association in a special ceremony at the Council meeting on Thursday 21 May.
Cr O’Toole said the Murray Darling Association brings together local governments across the basin to lobby state and federal government on behalf of their communities.
“From late 2016, as Mayor of the Balonne Shire, Richard Marsh chaired the Murray Darling Association Region 12, which covers the Queensland portion of the northern basin.”
Cr O’Toole said it was a time when the water buy-back debate was at its peak, and the Balonne Shire was fighting for its life.
“The series of water buys-backs aimed at returning water to the environment left our communities reeling. Cropping production was slashed, businesses closed, jobs were lost, and people left.”
At that time, Council had social and economic impact data which showed St George and Dirranbandi would be the worst affected communities in the country under the Federal Government water buy-back plan.
Cr O’Toole said Mr Marsh was a vocal advocate in lobbying the Federal Government to abandon water buy-backs as a tool to recover water in the Murray Darling Northern Basin.
Mr Marsh remembers there were several trips to Canberra to explain the Balonne region had done its fair share of the heavy lifting and was fed up with being continually targeted. "Our catch cry was simple. Enough is enough."
Mr Marsh said if they hadn’t stood up, the Balonne Shire would have been left with no water and no recompense for that loss. “We pushed hard to limit the Federal Government’s water recovery and attract increased grant funding to soften the blow for our region.”
Thanking Mayor O’Toole for the plaque, Mr Marsh said he was surprised and delighted. “At the time the Murray Darling debate was all-consuming as we fought for the best possible outcome. You never expect your efforts to be appreciated, so this is a very special moment.” Cr O’Toole said the fight is never over as Council concentrates on consolidating the Balonne Shire’s access to water and looks for new ways to build a stronger future.
For more information;
Balonne Shire Mayor Samantha O’Toole; m: 0428 887 100, e: Samantha.O'Toole@balonne.qld.gov.au