The Murray River Group of Councils last week released social research into the impact of the Murray Darling Basin Plan on the communities in northern Victoria.
This research gives some insight into the personal cost and on the social impact the Basin
Plan is having on the people and the communities in our northern Victorian irrigation districts.
Cr Cheryl McKinnon, the chair of the Murray River Group, said: “As councils, we know the
Basin Plan is having an impact on our communities. We see it and we hear it all the time from those living and working in our region.
“What we also know is that their voices are not always being heard in Canberra. The film and the report we are releasing today, are about people telling their own stories; and we urge decision-makers to listen carefully to them,” Cr McKinnon said.
The research highlights impact on mental health, on physical health and on family relationships due to the increased stress and uncertainty for irrigators dealing with higher water prices and increased farming risk.
“It’s about people and people’s lives,” Cr McKinnon said.
“We have got farmers out there who are doing it really tough. And we know when farmers are affected, the impact doesn’t stay on the farm, it flows right through our communities.”
Another finding of the research is that many are concerned about the impact on community resilience and that communities’ capacity to adapt, especially at times of stress, has been eroded.
“If you listen to the people in our communities, they are worried. They’re worried about more water leaving the region; they’re worried about the next big dry. They see what is going to happen, especially to dairy, but also to other sectors. It really does have the potential to devastate our communities,” said Cr McKinnon.
“What is clear also from the research is that our communities are not anti the Basin Plan.
We all want healthy rivers, wetland, birds; but we need to implement the Plan in a way that maintains our way of life, our vibrant communities; our ability to grow healthy food for the nation.
“We already knew, from the independent economic reports into our region that the Basin
Plan has reduced production and jobs particularly in the GMID. This new research supports those findings and gives us insight into what that means on a personal level. It doesn’t give us more numbers, but what it does do, is remind us that behind the numbers are people.
“This is just more evidence that you can’t take more water out of northern Victorian irrigation districts without it having a detrimental impact on our communities.
“Our clear message to Ministers is that it doesn’t matter what bureaucratic or legalistic, cleverly worded definition of socio-economic impact you pick, the reality is that if you take more water from our districts it will have a negative impact.
“And you just have to listen to the stories from this research to realise that those impacts are felt by individuals and by families and they affect people’s lives.
“We hope that Ministers will listen and will bear these stories in mind as they make decisions that will affect our region for decades.”