A Class Action has been lodged against the Murray Darling Basin Authority by Southern Riverina-based food and fibre producers.
Confirmed yesterday, the Class Action aims to recover the value of lost productivity for the region for and on behalf of landholders.
Those involved have sought advice from Ian Coleman SC, and believe the alleged mismanagement of the nation’s most precious resource has cost the region at least $750 million in economic revenue.
Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Chris Brooks, who represents 1200 farm business across a 748,000ha footprint, said the group of NSW Murray Valley producers have joined forces because they believe the MDBA should be held accountable for the losses.
The group says it is the MDBA’s alleged mismanagement of water in the Murray River system which has left the valley with zero general security water allocations this irrigation season.
‘‘In early April the MDBA river manager Andrew Reynolds met with stakeholders in Deniliquin and told us that from June to January there were a massive amount of operational losses, in a year of extreme drought,’’ Mr Brooks said.
Mr Brooks said that for 141 days during spring and summer forests were unnaturally flooded as water spilled over the river’s banks, while paddocks were bone dry and crop production came to a standstill.
He said that is because farmers in the NSW Murray were given no general security allocation.
Mr Brooks estimates that due to running the river above capacity, in excess of 800 gigalitres of water was lost. He said it is directly related to ‘‘our farmers’’ not being able to produce crops.
‘‘That is valuable income for not only our farming families, but also all the businesses which support our farmers. It is transport companies, contractors, agricultural service providers, industry employees, small businesses and our entire communities who are impacted by loss of income.
‘‘Our region is meant to be productive in years like we have seen; these are the years that our investment in efficient gravity feed irrigation systems pays dividends. Our region is meant to help be the solution to drought by producing feed and fodder for others and at the same time ensuring we are earning an income instead of becoming a financial burden on government.
‘‘If the water wasn’t in the system then we would not be taking this course of action. But the water was there, however it was lost due to what we believe was mismanagement.
‘‘This mismanagement has cost people their stock, their farms, their jobs and even people’s lives. Someone has to be held to account, our politicians and governments are not holding water managers to account, so what other option do we have?’’
Mr Brooks said more information will be distributed to water owners across the region soon, and will include how they can get involved.