About 600 people have rallied through the streets of Deniliquin, protesting the governments amendments to the Murray Darling Basin Plan and what they consider "harmful" water buy-backs.
On Tuesday, November 21, thousands participated in simultaneous rallies across the Murray Darling Basin, with mayors from Edward River, Leeton, and Griffith councils uniting their communities against the contentious legislation.
Edward River Council mayor Peta Betts expressed frustration, suggesting there are better ways to support the environment.
"There are smarter things we can do to help the river, rather than just flush more water down through buybacks," she said.
"That's why people here are so frustrated. We're pleading with the government to rethink this.
"Come and sit down with us and let's take the time to get this right."
Deniliquin dairy farmer and NFF Water Committee chair, Malcolm Holm, criticised the plan as a political manoeuvre lacking environmental benefits.
"This happened to us about 10 years ago and we lived through that, we understand what happened there, and we can see the same thing happening again where the guts are just ripped out of regional communities," he said.
However, deputy leader of the National party, Senator Perin Davey, argued buy-backs won't only impact farmers, but workers and regional communities.
"This is not just farmers protesting today, these are workers and local government people," she said.
"At the end of the day, a farmer might sell their water and they'll get compensated, but these guys don't get compensation, they get a redundancy notice.
"That's what these communities are worried about: loss of jobs, loss of people and productivity from right here in the basin."
Chair of the National Irrigators Council, Jeremy Morton, said water-buybacks will "decimate" local businesses and communities.
"We see in drought, the local businesses really struggle and the rice mill basically goes back to skeleton staff," he said.
"So while drought is part of life, this will make it permanent - it will be devastating for towns like Deniliquin."
He advocated for alternative measures to support the environment.
"You don't have to have water buy-backs ... there are a lot of things you can do," Mr Morton said.
"You've got complementary measures like getting rid of carp out of our waterways, cold water pollution, fish screens and fencing off riparian zones.
"There are so many other things you can do to improve environmental health that doesn't require water buy-backs, and all the decimation that comes with it."
Farrer MP Sussan Ley expressed solidarity with the protesters and apologised for her absence, saying, "I share your passion, I share your anger, and I am there in spirit".
"I am working incredibly hard, as are so many people across the basin, to overturn this ridiculous change to the Basin Plan that is being rammed down our throats by this awful, awful government," she said.
"It is deceitful. It's disgusting.
"But we are not going to give up."
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