Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fear for country ghost towns in rural NSW under Murray-Darling Basin Authority

SOME of NSW's most famous country towns are at risk of becoming ghost towns if water cuts proposed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority go ahead, according to the nation's peak farming body. 

According to the authority's latest report, the proposed Basin-wide water cut would have the biggest impact on NSW towns and rural communities around Hay, Balranald, Jerilderie, Leeton and Hillston in the state's south and west, and Lightning Ridge, Moree, Walgett, Narrabri and Wee Waa in the northwest, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The authority proposed an average water cut of 27 to 37 per cent - higher in some regions - which would return between 3000 and 4000 gigalitres of water to the river.

While a "significant number" of Basin communities showed a "low to moderate" level of vulnerability to changes in current diversion limits, several communities showed a "very high vulnerability", the report said.
A map demonstrating current community vulnerability before water cuts showed towns including Orange, Forbes, Cowra, Dubbo, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Temora are less vulnerable to cuts to water allocations.

However, towns and communities further west and further north of Sydney are much more vulnerable to cuts.
"Communities that show higher vulnerability to reductions in current diversion limits have a combination of higher sensitivity to changes in water use (ie, they have a very high dependence on water for agriculture and high agri-industry employment) and more limited levels of adaptive capacity ... compared with other Basin regions," the report said.

Acting chief executive of the National Farmers' Federation, Denita Wawn, said the authority - which is an independent body - had not done enough research into how communities would be impacted by water reductions, and said "there's a potential" towns could become ghost towns.

"The cuts were far more widespread and more significant across valleys than anticipated," Ms Wawn said.
"They're just wanting to cut the hearts of these towns. The authority needs to go back and do its sums."

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