Plan has failed communities

By Cobram Courier

Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins has hit out at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s social and economic evaluation of the basin plan, saying the outcome can not go unanswered.

Mr Perkins said the authority’s ‘nothing to see here’ evaluation contradicted the findings of its own assessment of the impacts imposed on the Berrigan and Finley communities.

He said communities such as Finley and Berrigan had been let down by the Federal Government, which failed to provide adequate assistance to help adapt to a future with less water, despite promises to do so.

Mr Perkins said funding for adaptation strategies were provided by the government once the plan was introduced, only for it to be withdrawn before the strategies were identified.

An indication of the plan’s impact on Berrigan and Finley was the decline in total workforce of almost 40 per cent since 2001.

More than half of the losses were during the period of implementation of the plan, which contrasted with an average downturn in total workforce of 24 per cent across the basin.

Mr Perkins said the timing of the plan was ill-advised due to the economic and social conditions.

‘‘The plan was implemented when community resilience and capacity to adapt were at their lowest, immediately after the drought,’’ he said.

‘‘This is demonstrated by the fact other communities, less affected by implementation of the plan, started to show signs of recovery whilst the Finley and Berrigan communities continued to decline.’’

Mr Perkins was most scathing of the financial strain the plan had placed on the two towns.

‘‘Cruelly, implementation of the plan has taken above-average communities and turned them into below-average communities and reduced their capacity to adapt to a different future,’’ he said.

Mr Perkins believes the implementation of the plan ‘‘represents a compound failure’’ on the authority’s behalf to see the obvious impacts on Berrigan and Finley, without responding accordingly.