Helen Daltan and Deb Buller talk water: Divide and Conquer


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TALKING WATER: Helen Dalton and Deb Buller believe irrigators are being mercilessly subjected to ‘divide and conquer’, and the policy is un-Australian.

TALKING WATER: Helen Dalton and Deb Buller believe irrigators are being mercilessly subjected to ‘divide and conquer’, and the policy is un-Australian.

Agriculture is one of the oldest and most complex of industries in the world. We work with living things in an interdependent relationship with our environment.

The strength of our communities is our amazing diversity and resilience despite the fact that we lack population numbers. 

The Murray Darling Basin (MDB) is home to 40 per cent of Australia’s entire agricultural produce and therefore a highly significant region.

Over the past three decades, MDB communities have done enormous work returning water in extremely difficult circumstances. 

We are often sidelined, outnumbered or just ‘preached at’ in these highly scripted meetings.

Unfortunately, the MDBP (Murray Darling Basin Plan) is not delivering the promised balance or streamlining. 

Separate states and valleys are expected to find water saving projects and now the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) along with other bureaucracies are, once again, pitting farmer against farmer, commodity against commodity, valley against valley and state against state. 

They’re trying to pick winners.

We’re all trying to protect our local communities and environments but we’re being expected to draw “blood from of a stone!”

The MDBA is asking for our trust with vague references about whom to blame for the impractical aspects of the plan. 

We’re advised there has to be winners and losers or someone has to ‘take a hit for the team’.

There are strict non-negotiable time frames and we have “a gun to our heads”. 

Nearly always, when we do get a chance to discuss practicalities, the responsibility is directed elsewhere and we’re told it’s just ‘too political’.

As the MDBA and state water authorities struggle to gain respect from regional communities it’s no wonder we are suspicious and skeptical. 

Some communities and farms are under threat from flooding, others are being de-watered and others are experiencing issues with poor water quality. 

Some areas are being expected to bear risks of all three – no one is accountable and there’s no triple bottom line!

Australians are renowned for the mindset of a fair go and with good management and a clear vision we could build on the ‘fair go’ concept and look after our mates in other states and other valleys.

Very unfortunately, in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management we’re instead witnessing people with no skin in the game making questionable decisions about other peoples’ livelihoods and environments.

We’re being mercilessly subjected to ‘divide and conquer’, and in our view that is un-Australian.