The Murray Darling Basin’s biggest irrigation company, Murray Irrigation Ltd, has been called on to halt sales of water to governments until a satisfactory policy outcome has been reached with the Federal Water Minister, Penny Wong.
The chairman of the Murray Valley Community Action Group (MVCAG) Lester Wheatley says if governments continue to take water from sellers who are under duress, in the middle of the worst drought in a century, there will be a major collapse of agriculture in the Basin.
Concerned members of local government, peak industry groups and community water crisis members met in Deniliquin endrosed this view.
They agreed they wanted Federal Water Minister Penny Wong to urgently visit the region to discuss the targeting of the Murray Valley in the water buy-up, and the social and economic consequences of this action.
Mr Wheatley says there is an urgent need to investigate how much water is being targeted from this region in the current water buy-up.
There’s an urgent need to understand the consequential economic and social impact, which will result from this large-scale transfer of irrigation water from productive use.
“We will not stand by and watch water entitlements eroded from so called ‘willing sellers’ when we don’t know what quantities of water these government departments have already purchased and may purchase from our area,” Mr Wheatley says.
“This region has had a zero allocation for the last two years and had its carry-over water suspended until recently.
"The bucket is dry – there really is no water for us or the environment.
"These are just paper transactions at a time when irrigators are financially under the hammer and in no position to make balanced judgments.
“Many farmers are parting with their most valuable asset as a last resort just to stay afloat.
"The tragedy is that the current closed tender process is not transparent,
"We are seeing farmers playing Russian roulette – hoping they are accepting the best offer for their water entitlements.
"There is a total lack of price transparency.
"And four of the buyer’s in the market are tax payer funded entities.
“The water in this valley is not only a resource for the farming community.
"It is a resource for the productivity and sustainability of the towns of the Murray Valley as well.
"So I seek urgent discussions with the Minister.
"Until then the MVCAG requests Murray Irrigation and all other irrigation water authorities to immediately block all water sale transfers to government,” Mr Wheatley said.