Local residents recently attended a 'Farming Forum' run by the Bellingen Environment Centre, where they heard from candidates and challenged them to respond to community concerns. In a series of posts we dive deeper into the controversial meeting.
In our first post on this forum, we covered the community outrage that was triggered by blueberry bigwig Gurmesh Singh's platitudes on good neighbourly behaviour.
During that same forum concerned locals wanted to know where water was sourced from to supply the rapacious needs of this sprawling and unregulated industry.
There is talk in the town of an explosion in 'improperly licensed' bores, and of neighbours being regularly harassed to trade away their water rights, among other things.
Rather than soberly deal with these concerns, Singh decided a sarcastic comment was an appropriate response to a key community concern:
The question was:
Can I ask where the water comes from to irrigate the blueberry farms at the moment?
It comes from the sky.
The annoyed audience can be heard to respond:
No! They're taking it out of the groundwater. They're putting bores in and taking it out. 30-40 mega-litres
Singh continued with his theme of accepting no responsibility, as chairman of the blueberry industry group, for any industry issues, continuing to deflect by only talking about his personal farm practices:
I'm not taking any underground water. My water comes from the creek.
Residents should be alarmed at the irresponsible attitude to our water by senior blueberry industry figures.
How much water can be reasonably extracted by industry before significant problems are caused to our environment?
What happens when hundreds of local bores hammer away at our water table and rapidly deplete it?
Does anyone know? It certainly seems industry does not particularly care, with Singh re-iterating his opposition to any restriction on water licenses.
To learn more about the concerns from experts about our misuse of water, we'd urge you to read a recent ABC piece: Who's watching the water? Experts sound warning on deteriorating groundwater monitoring