Victorian water wars escalate

Activists opposing plans to pipe water from parched rural centres to Melbourne’s suburbs were advocating disrupting train and water services to Melbourne, and blockading highways and Labor MPs’ electorate offices as the state’s water debate became increasingly bitter.

Instruction leaflets delivered: Leaflets with instructions on how to carry out these tactics had been distributed around rural centres north-west of Melbourne, but they were unsigned, wrote Duncan Hughes in The Australian Financial Review (24/11/2007, p. 4).

Emotions running high: Plug The Pipe, the lobby group attacking the plans for a north-south pipeline, disclaimed responsibility for inciting any violence or damage to private property but warned emotions were running high in a community suffering from the worst drought in a century. It could also provide other drought-stricken communities around the nation with tested tactics on how to combat desperate governments trying to find ways of dividing dwindling water supplies between towns and country.

"Quasi-terrorist" tactics: Water Minister Tim Holding, who was responsible for the $4.9 billion of water infrastructure projects aimed at drought-proofing the state, had accused Liberal federal member Sharmon Stone and failed Liberal candidate Mike Dalmau of stirring up trouble and warned about "quasi-terrorist" tactics.

Debate about 75 GL of water: The first wave of the water wars was being fought over the $2 billion Food Bowl Modernisation Project, based around the Goulburn Murray irrigation district, which was intended to save 225 gigalitres annually by 2012. The debate was about 75 gigalitres of water to flow to Melbourne from savings in the Goulburn Valley. Dalmau, who denounced extreme tactics but admitted to having distributed some controversial literature, said: "They cannot win the argument so they are attacking individuals." Nationals leader Peter Ryan, who wanted an alternative strategy of improved rainfall capture and increased recycling, believed the opponents were "clearly" winning the fight.

The Australian Financial Review, 24/11/2007, p. 4

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