Country towns fear water buy backs


“You might be able to compensate the people who sell their licence, but how do you compensate the people who live in the town that depends on that licence?”

Balonne Shire mayor, Donna Stewart, said the buyback was potentially “catastrophic” for her shire, which had lost 600 people in the last census and may have lost another 200 since August 2007.

“We won’t be taking it lying down,” Ms Stewart said.

“We’ll be knocking on the door, asking for compensation.”

Green groups have suggested the Government use its buyback funds to purchase six key irrigation properties currently on the market or seeking finance, with the aim of putting 300 gigalitres back into the system in the short-term, and recovering 400GL a year in the long term.

The list includes the 80,000-hectare Cubbie Station, the Balonne’s and Australia’s largest single irrigation enterprise, which has the capacity to hold 462,000 megalitres in its capacious storages.

“I couldn’t put a dollar value on Cubbie,” Ms Stewart said. “Every-thing that we go to in this shire is supported by Cubbie.”

Even if Condamine-Balonne irrigators stampede to sell licences when the buyback program opens in Queensland in September – an unlikely scenario, according to Ms Stewart – the water will do little to help the stricken lower Murray.

The Murray-Darling Basin Commission estimates only 20 per cent of the water that crosses the border makes it to the lower Murray.

Lower Murray Irrigation Associa-tion chairman, Richard Reedy, said the Queensland buyback might help in the long run. “But to be of any use right now, you would have to bring it all here in plastic bottles.”

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