Cash for 450GL com­pen­sa­tion

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

De­spite say­ing there will be no neg­a­tive ef­fects from re­cov­er­ing an ex­tra 450 gi­gal­itres (GL) of en­vi­ron­men­tal water, the Fed­eral Government has made pro­vi­sion for paying com­pen­sa­tion to com­mu­ni­ties.

Prime Min­is­ter Ju­lia Gil­lard re­cently said the water would be re­cov­ered through projects that en­sure ‘‘there is no so­cial and eco­nomic down­side for com­mu­ni­ties’’.

The 450GL is on top of the 2750GL bench­mark in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan, and lo­cals fear the ex­tra flows could have third party im­pacts such as flood­ing.

Leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate a $1.77 bil­lion ac­count to fund the project was ex­pected to go be­fore Par­lia­ment yes­ter­day.

Fed­eral Water Min­is­ter Tony Burke has re­peat­edly stated the water re­cov­ery process will have neu­tral or pos­i­tive so­cioe­co­nomic ef­fects.

How­ever, a closer look at the bill re­veals ref­er­ences to pay­ments for com­mu­ni­ties neg­a­tively af­fected by the project.

An ex­plana­tory mem­o­ran­dum on the bill says, ‘‘Pay­ments may also be made from the [$1.77 bil­lion] Ac­count to ad­dress any detri­men­tal so­cial or eco­nomic im­pact on the well be­ing of any com­mu­nity in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin that is as­so­ci­ated with a project as men­tioned above, so as to off­set any im­pacts’’.

This is de­spite the bill it­self ear­lier say­ing the water will be re­cov­ered in such a way that ‘‘there are no neg­a­tive so­cial or eco­nomic im­pacts on basin com­mu­ni­ties’’.

When ques­tioned about the pay­ments, Fed­eral Water Min­is­ter Tony Burke’s of­fice is­sued the fol­low­ing state­ment: ‘‘The Bill in­cludes this pro­vi­sion in case projects are made up of mul­ti­ple el­e­ments.

‘‘In com­bi­na­tion th­ese must achieve neu­tral or bet­ter so­cio-eco­nomic out­comes, as re­quired by the basin plan.’’

Mur­ray Group of Con­cerned Com­mu­ni­ties (MGCC) chair­man Bruce Simp­son said the pay­ments sound like a struc­tural ad­just­ment package.

‘‘We don’t want to be fobbed off by struc­tural re-ad­just­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘Our ar­gu­ment is there can’t be any third party im­pacts. If there are you can’t pro­ceed.

‘‘It [struc­tural ad­just­ment] pro­vides the means or ex­cuse for them to pro­ceed even though they ac­knowl­edge . . . that there’s third party im­pacts.’’

Mr Simp­son said the pay­ments could also not be enough to cover any dam­age - and then there is the prob­lem of prov­ing the neg­a­tive ef­fects.

‘‘Who’s the per­son re­spon­si­ble for prov­ing the neg­a­tive im­pact has oc­curred? It will be the com­mu­nity,’’ he said.

Mr Simp­son said even if the com­mu­nity was suc­cess­ful in prov­ing dam­age, it will be an­other chal­lenge to get the government to change.

‘‘The com­mu­nity will be left to de­fend it­self in re­gard to the im­pacts that this plan cre­ates.

‘‘We will have to mo­bilise our own re­sources.

‘‘That’s a con­cern that will con­tinue be­yond the plan go­ing through Par­lia­ment.’’

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