‘Cruel’ plan

By Southern Riverina News

‘‘Cruely, the implementation of the Basin Plan has taken above average communities and turned them into below average communities, and reduced their capacity to adapt to a different future.’’

That is Berrigan Shire Council general manager Rowan Perkins’ strong view on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which he said is unlikely to change if responsible authorities refuse to accept the impact it has on communities.

Mr Perkins said the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s continued refusal to accept the impact the plan has on population, employment and production is dumbfounding.

In new basin community profiles released this month, the Authority attempts to make a clear distinction between employment and population losses which arose during the decade long drought and those that have occurred since the Basin Plan was introduced in 2010.

Mr Perkins said it’s just another example of the Authority’s failure to accept and address the compounding nature of the plan on those drought conditions, which were experienced so acutely in the local area.

‘‘The Authority’s ‘nothing to see here’ attitude contradicts the findings of its own assessment of the impacts that have been imposed on the Berrigan and Finley communities,’’ Mr Perkins said.

‘‘It is difficult to understand why the Authority is trying to say ‘everything’s fine here, the Plan has had no impact on these communities’.

‘‘It is also very disappointing that the Federal Government, as the owners of the Plan, have inflicted this damage on the communities without any support, and in fact shamefully removed the support that it had promised.

‘‘Under Labor and Penny Wong councils were promised money to adapt to a future with less water. After we did all the studies, we were told the money was no longer there to implement potential solutions.

‘‘This ‘blame everything else for the economic and social decline of the communities’ is compounding the lack of assistance for the communities to adapt to a future with less water despite the promise to do so.’’

In releasing the new community profiles last week, Murray Darling Basin Authority CEO Phillip Glyde made sure to highlight that between 2000 and 2016 the total number of people employed in the 40 basin communities declined by 13 per cent and ‘‘our research shows that about four per cent of that decline was due to the Basin Plan’’.

The profile for Berrigan-Finley specifies the 20.4 per cent decline in population between 2001 and 2016 was ‘‘ constant across time’’.

It did however highlight that 22.9 per cent of the total 39.9 per cent decrease in the total workforce had occurred since 2011, after the plan’s release.

Mr Perkins said interestingly, the Murray Darling Basin Authority report shows 20 per cent of land use in the Berrigan-Finley area is irrigated, despite history showing us that 75 per cent is irrigated.

‘‘These communities have seen a decline in total workforce of almost 40 per cent since 2001, more than half of which occurred during the period of implementation of the plan.

‘‘This contrasts with an average downturn in total workforce of 24 per cent across the basin.

‘‘While earlier job losses may be attributed to the extended drought, the latter losses align with the plan’s implementation.

‘‘Importantly, the plan was implemented when community resilience and capacity to adapt were at their lowest immediately after the drought.

‘‘This is demonstrated by the fact other communities less effected by implementation of the plan started to show signs of recovery whilst the Finley and Berrigan communities continued to decline.

‘‘Also reinforcing the impacts is the fact that the communities historically demonstrated higher than average workforce participation rates while this is now lower than average.’’