LIVES and livelihoods are being adversely impacted by the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
An insight into the personal cost and on the social impact the Basin Plan is having on the people and the communities in northern Victorian irrigation districts, is contained in social research released yesterday by six regional municipalities.
Acting in unison as members of the Murray River Group of Councils, the municipalities say the research highlights impact on mental health, on physical health and on family relationships due to the increased stress and uncertainty for irrigators dealing with higher water prices and increased farming risk.
The group comprises six councils in northern Victoria: the Gannawarra, Loddon, Campaspe and Moira shires and the Mildura and Swan Hill rural cities.
Group chair, Cr Cheryl McKinnon said that the councils know that the Basin Plan is having an impact on our communities.
"We see it and we hear it all the time from those living and working in our region," she said.
"What we also know is that their voices are not always being heard in Canberra. The film and the report we are releasing today, are about people telling their own stories; and we urge decision-makers to listen carefully to them.
Cr McKinnon, who is also the current Loddon mayor, said that the research focused on people and people's lives.
"We have got farmers out there who are doing it really tough and we know when farmers are affected, the impact doesn't stay on the farm; it flows right through our communities," she said.
Another finding of the research is that many are concerned about the impact on community resilience and that communities' capacity to adapt, especially at times of stress, has been eroded.
"If you listen to the people in our communities, they are worried. They're worried about more water leaving the region; they're worried about the next big dry. They see what is going to happen, especially to dairy, but also to other sectors. It really does have the potential to devastate our communities," she said.
Cr McKinnon said that the research showed that our communities are not "anti the Basin Plan" and that local residents want healthy rivers, wetlands and birds, but they want the plan adopted in a way that maintains our way of life.
"[We want] vibrant communities; our ability to grow healthy food for the nation".
"We already knew, from the independent economic reports into our region that the Basin Plan has reduced production and jobs, particularly in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District. This new research supports those findings and gives us insight into what that means on a personal level.
"It doesn't give us more numbers, but what it does do, is remind us that behind the numbers are people."