THE GRIFFITH community is bracing for a fresh fight to save what’s left of its irrigation water.
The western Riverina city has been the site of a series of fiery protests in recent years against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Irrigators say billions of litres of water have already been bought back from stressed farmers in the Murrumbidgee Valley under the plan, stripping water - and future income - out of the community permanently. More than 300 billion litres of water remain to be bought back basin-wide before the plan reaches its target, prompting desperate calls for a buyback moratorium from Griffith leaders.
“It’s already gone well beyond the tipping point,” Griffith Business Chamber president Paul Pierotti said. “We're already seeing the economic impact on the community – there are 100 vacant stores in the CBD and new home building has slowed down to virtually nothing.”
The chamber’s calls for an immediate freeze on buybacks appears to have support in powerful places.
Murray MP Adrian Piccoli yesterday confirmed the state government remained staunchly against buybacks.
“It’s always been my position, and the position of the community, to not support buybacks,” Mr Piccoli said. “Yes, plenty of local farmers have sold water but that’s because they’ve needed to to survive.”
Mr Piccoli said he also backed calls for an upper house state inquiry into the buybacks and their socio-economic impact on basin communities.
Meanwhile, federal senator John Madigan is pushing for a federal senate inquiry into many of the assumptions underpinning the plan.
Mr Pierotti said it was “farcical” that much of the water bought back under the plan was not able to be used for its original purpose - to rejuvenate rivers. “Half of it can’t be used for environmental flows because it will flood downstream towns,” Mr Pierotti said.
He said it was critical water saving targets were met through on-farm and systemic infrastructure upgrades, rather than buybacks.
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