Hundreds join MDBA class action

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Hundreds of farmers have thrown their support behind a Class Action against the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

It follows a series of landholder meetings in the NSW Murray last week, at which reasons for the action were explained by its instigator, Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Chris Brooks.

They want $750 million in compensation for loss of income, claiming this has been caused by the MDBA’s poor water management.

Mr Brooks said there had been overwhelming support for the Class Action, which started with just himself and eight other farmers.

“The farmers know they are being screwed. We’ve tried all the right ways to highlight the cost of poor water management, but the MDBA will not listen to us and politicians have wiped their hands of the problem.

“We have been left with one last resort, which is going through the judicial system where we can put all the facts in front of an independent umpire, who can determine whether or not we have a claim.”

Mr Brooks said there had been an incredible level of support from cash-strapped farmers.

He said some are in such a dire situation they simply do not have the cash to join the fight, which the group is estimating to total around $600 per land holding.

“It has become so desperate some farmers cannot even afford to fund the fight for their own future; the fight to keep putting food on everyday Australian’s tables. But they’re prepared to give up their glass of beer to raise the money required, if that’s what it will take.

“Surely that tells us something must be done urgently, yet whether it is politicians or the MDBA we cannot seem to make them listen,” Mr Brooks said.

He explained the Class Action was seeking compensation because NSW Murray irrigators have been on zero allocation, while water has flooded into forests and been wasted.

“There are two key problems in the system at present. Firstly, no water is coming from up north which means the Darling River is not contributing water to South Australia’s needs.

“Secondly, the amount of water demanded by South Australia is insane. Their farmers have been on 100 per cent allocation for eight years running, the Lower Lakes are kept at maximum height for boating regattas and they have flows for an increasing number of man-made waterfront housing developments. On top of that is the unregulated downstream permanent plantings and then there’s all the water that is poured out to sea, all being delivered by us.

“In an attempt to deliver these massive quantities passed the Barmah Choke authorities are unnaturally flooding our forests in their efforts to send so much water to SA.

“Along the way we are causing environmental damage; from a plan that was supposed to protect the environment.”

Mr Brooks said it was totally unacceptable to have mismanagement of our most precious resource, while at the same time NSW Murray irrigators were on a zero allocation and therefore unable to run a viable operation.

“All we want is a fair go. We do not think that is too much to ask,” he said.