A BITTER PILL TO SWALLOW
I read with dismay the destruction of our Wakool community in statistics released recently.
They showed we have just under 50 percent fewer people and just over 50 percent fewer in the workforce compared to 2001.
But the great tragedy is that, as recent events have shown, they are seen only as statistics and not as real people with real livelihoods.
I cannot believe that in 21st century Australia it is acceptable for governments to sacrifice rural communities such as Wakool.
My community has been decimated by the Murray-Darling Basin Plan; a plan that governments promised would deliver a ‘triple bottom line’ of social, economic and environmental outcomes. Yet in South Australia they get off relatively scot free, refusing to undertake infrastructure works on the barrages, consider returning the ‘end of system’ to its traditional estuarine state, or any other solution that may help us achieve a more balanced plan.
Now, because of the South Australian influence, the Labor Party and the The Greens want to inflict more pain on communities like Wakool by demanding the additional 450GL ‘up-water’, despite a promise written in legislation by then Water Minister, Tony Burke that this would only be delivered if there were no negative social and economic impacts. For political gain he is now prepared to sacrifice more rural communities.
Is it any wonder Australians continue to lose faith in their political representation.
Finally, a message to every Australian…please remember, the dramatic decline in population and jobs as shown in the recent reports are not merely statistics. They are real people, real neighbours and real friends in once vibrant communities like my Wakool, whose livelihoods are being sacrificed for political gain, not environmental gain. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.
The recently completed review of Goulburn Murray Water undertaken by Marsden Jacob Associates for the government appointed Strategic Advisory Panel contains some interesting findings.
Marsden Jacob Associates assessed the gravity irrigation business as being financially unsustainable assuming constant prices in real terms and that decreasing prices by five percent or 10 percent would only acerbate the adverse financial position of the gravity irrigation business.
Marsden Jacob Associates also revealed that 80 percent of channels delivered less than 500ML accounted for only 18 percent of total deliveries while 20 percent of channels delivered 500ML accounted for around 82 percent during the 2017 irrigation season.
These and other findings lead the review to question the rationale for refurbishing under-utilised assets, outlined the potential to reduce the irrigation footprint and decommission a relatively high number of channels with a low number delivery shares all without any great impact on revenue.
These findings are consistent with the long standing views of a section of the irrigation community and the Goulburn Valley Environment Group.
Some timelines contained within the review are less than aspirational and if we want to create a sustainable irrigation industry in Northern Victoria we must implement the rationalisation and reduction of the irrigation footprint in a structured manner now.
While all stakeholders are responsible in part for the deficiency of the $2B modernisation of ageing and inefficient irrigation system it has been evident virtually from the start that insufficient funds had been allocated to the multifaceted reorganisation of the social, economic and environmental interests. If an additional $300M is needed to deliver a sustainable irrigation industry and a healthy environment so be it.
Goulburn Valley Environment Group