Community interests in the Lower Darling are being sacrificed for the profits of big corporations, according to new research by The Australia Institute.
The report, Trickle Out Effect, shows the $13 billion dollar Murray Darling Basin Plan is facilitating the flow of money to powerful agribusiness at the expense of local communities, native title holders,graziers, downstream water users, small irrigators and the health of the river system.
“Special deals that benefit big agribusiness are made behind closed doors while consultation with those most affected is scant and tokenistic,” says Maryanne Slattery, Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute.
“One stakeholder that has not had these problems is major agribusiness, Webster, which secured a $40 million dollar compensation deal for water buy-backs in the Lower Darling with the Commonwealth Government in 2017.
“Webster was compensated $40 million, while communities across the entire NSW basin got only $36 million to adjust to the Basin Plan. No other business has received compensation in the Lower Darling or anywhere else in the Basin.
“This begs the question, why do the Basin’s decision makers have one way of dealing with powerful agribusiness and a different way of dealing with everyone else?
“Basin governments and their agencies favour big agribusiness over the community, with community stakeholders turned away from meetings or forced into confidentiality agreements.
“The Webster deal sets a precedent for compensation to be paid to all stakeholders in the Lower Darling: the Barkandji native title holders, graziers, Menindee businesses and property owners, and small irrigators.”