Australia's water reform plan arouses angry reaction from local communities

09:58, October 14, 2010      

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Australian Federal Water Minister Tony Burke on Thursday reminded angry farmers and rural communities that a water reform plan for the Murray-Darling Basin is nowhere near to being finalized.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority last week has outlined a process that aims to reform on the water management in order to secure the river system's future.

The report has recommended a cut of up to 45 percent in some catchment areas, and has arousing angry reaction from irrigators and local communities.

Hundreds of people gathered in the New South Wales irrigation town of Griffith on Thursday, for a third public consultation meeting with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

Irrigators has strongly opposed the plan, and said significant irrigation cuts could lead to civil unrest, wreaking havoc across regional Australia and sending food prices soaring. There were also warnings that banks could foreclose on farmers if water entitlements were slashed in favor of the basin's environmental needs.

Burke reiterated the government's support for reform of the basin's management, but reminded stakeholders a final plan had not been settled.

"All we have at the moment ... is a guide to a draft of a plan, " he told ABC Radio on Thursday. "We don't actually get to finalizing the plan for the basin until the end of next year."

Meanwhile, Burke warned the banks it was too early to make business decisions about their customers in irrigation communities.

State Nationals Member of Parliament Adrian Piccoli is hoping the consultation meeting unveiled to the government how devastating the plan will be for the local community.

"You just can't sit in Canberra, make these kinds of decisions with people's lives and expect there to be no response and expect people even to be calm about it," he told ABC Radio.

"People have invested their lives in their businesses and to see them threatened in this way, of course people are angry."

The series of public consultations about the guide's recommendations will be held over the next four months before being finalized the end of next year.r>Source: Xinhua


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