Posselt revises Henry Lawson


“We have made it worse for people,” Mr Posselt said. “Water is very, very divisive. The happiest groups of people that we have come across have been in areas where there’s been very little irrigation.”

Mr Posselt, 54, left Brisbane on May 27 to paddle and pull his kayak to Adelaide to focus attention on man-made climate change and its effect on the Murray-Darling Basin.

Irrigation is the backbone of Bourke shire’s economy, but six years of drought have savaged the industry.

Across the road from Mr Posselt’s Bourke campsite were citrus trees cut back to their stumps so they put all their energy into surviving rather than producing fruit. There has barely been enough water to keep the trees alive and the severe pruning means they will not be able to produce a commercial crop for two years.

Hardly any cotton has been harvested for six years. There are irrigation businesses in receivership or up for sale.

Census data show no other local government area in NSW lost a greater proportion of its people between 2001 and 2006 than Bourke.

Some say that climate change has rendered Bourke’s irrigation unsustainable and money from the Federal Government’s $10 billion water security plan should be used to shut it down.

“As Australians, we should all hang our heads in shame that we have let it get to this situation,” Mr Posselt said.

To combat climate change, coal-fired power should be replaced by renewables as soon as possible, he said, and federal control of the Murray-Darling Basin was “fundamental”.

Bourke’s Mayor, Wayne O’Mally, is a climate-change sceptic who believes the local irrigation industry has a strong future because what is being experienced is simply a drought like many other long dry spells Bourke has endured.

“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that this drought is a cycle of nature,” he said. “Every single thing that happens with nature doesn’t have to be put down to climate change.”

But Cr O’Mally is in favour of federal action to prevent Queensland irrigators taking what he believes is too much water from Darling River tributaries.

He has also campaigned to have floodwater from coastal rivers like northern NSW’s Clarence piped into the tributaries of the Darling.

Mr Posselt says the river will be dammed “over my dead body … every society in the world that has done major inter-basin water transfer has failed eventually”.

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