Irrigators in southern NSW have filed a class action against the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) for $750 million in damages for mismanagement of water in the Murray River System.
Southern Riverina Irrigators (SRI) chair, Chris Brooks, said the MDBA’s mismanagement left them with zero allocation for the 2018-19 irrigation season, while more than 800 gigalitres flooded over the river’s banks for 141 days during spring and summer.
“You can only be a wild animal with a foot on your throat for so long. We are sick of it. It has caused us so much damage and we will pursue this as far as we have too.
“If we get money that will be great, but one thing’s for sure the MDBA won’t do this to us again – waste such a critical resource during a drought, a resource that could have generated millions of dollars for the Australian economy,” Mr Brooks said.
Initially the class action was all about looking after SRI irrigators, but Mr Brooks has already fielded calls from other interested parties.
“This is all about my irrigators and getting more water in the future, but there are other people out there wanting to get involved.”
Mr Brooks said some people might have questioned the timing of the action as a political move.
“We had to wait for the official close of the irrigation season, to get an official zero allocation to hit our triggers and get the ball rolling with the solicitors.
“Our region is meant to be productive in years like we have seen – these are the years our investment in efficient, gravity fed irrigation system pays dividends. Our region is meant to help the solution to drought by producing feed and fodder.
“If water wasn’t in the system then we wouldn’t be taking this course of action, but the water was there, however it was lost due to what we believe was mismanagement.
“Someone has to be held to account, our politicians and governments are not holding water managers to account, so what other options do we have?” he said.
The group have sought advice from Ian Coleman SC, appointed AquaLaw to represent it and believe the mismanagement of the nation’s most precious resource has cost the region at least $750 million in economic revenue.
The class action aims to recover the value of that lost productivity on behalf of landholders.
The claim was issued in the Supreme Court in NSW and Mr Brooks said he would be releasing more information as soon as possible to water owners across the region about how they could become involved.