Murray Darling farmers are hit with a $ 610,000 court fee bill after & # 39; settled & # 39; class action
Drought-stricken farmers are being chased for $ 610,000 after the NSW government has abandoned a & # 39; verbal deal & # 39; to cover their legal costs after admitting that they had mismanaged water rights.
Nearly 150 Murray Darling irrigators have sued the State Government for failing to manage their water rights in 2007.
Deniliquin sheep farmer Greg Sandford told Daily Mail Australia that according to the original deal everyone was told that they would lose 68 percent of their water allocation, but the loss would be compensated.
& # 39; At the last minute, they changed the formula so that some people lost up to 92 percent of their water and received no compensation, and & # 39; a small group of people became multi-millionaires overnight and kept all their water, & he said.
& # 39; We're in a big drought here, & # 39; he said. & # 39; We have had two farmers commit suicide because they have lost their farms due to these cuts, and others who have become millionaires, it was so unfair. & # 39;
Greg Sandford (photo) was part of a group of farmers who filed a class action against the NSW government for mismanagement of their water, claiming that some people had gone bankrupt and their businesses had been ruined
Farmers' class action, which represented 80 percent of the Murray irrigators, arranged the out-of-court action in a meeting that Mr. Sandford described on September 16, 2015 as & # 39; Niall Blair, Troy Grant and seven government officials in a room & # 39 ;.
Mr. Sandford claimed that data from the CSIRO showed that the water never had to be taken, and said government officials had admitted that.
& # 39; They admitted that the science was wrong and that they knew it, and agreed to give some water back to those who had lost a lot & he said.
& # 39; They also agreed that if we dropped the promotion, we would not be liable for their costs.
& # 39; So we dropped it, and after six months they said sorry guys, the deal is finished. & # 39;
The farmer got worse, the farmers met NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey at the end of last month and were told that the state government would not abandon the bill.
Briefly to the farmers for checking facts, the minister was advised to continue pursuing costs, because it is a deterrent to starting tricky legal actions.
& # 39; We said to her – you have two people who committed suicide, others died and had to sell the farms … we said: are you going to chase dead people to get your money? & # 39; Said Sandford.
& # 39; I have two boys who have just come home to the farm and I wish they had not, everyone is trying to get away.
& # 39; No one can see a future because the policy is so absurd. & # 39;
Farmer Ian Chessels is standing next to a $ 500,000 well, but his oat harvest (pictured in the background) died because his water allocation was cut under the new management plan
The farmers (pictured are dry meadows in the Murray region) arranged their action in 2015 after a meeting with the then Minister of Water Niall Blair. They claim that there was an oral agreement, that no court fees would be sought if the claim were withdrawn
In a recent meeting with Water Minister Melinda Pavey, representatives of the group, including Mr. Sandford (pictured in second place from the right with Murray MP Helen Dalton) received a brief explanation that the government would continue to pursue costs & # 39; as a deterrent to annoying legal actions & # 39;
Sandford said that farmers are now spending a lot of money to lend back the water that has been taken from them. With a megaliter of water that costs up to $ 8,500 in parts of the state – a price increase of 140 percent in just 12 months – it is a huge investment.
& # 39; Our groundwater was traded at $ 400 … now it is $ 3,200 – which is in the hands of investors & # 39 ;, he said.
& # 39; They force farmers to sell their water because they have lost so much – it just feels like it was planned. & # 39;
Sandford has spent $ 1.3 million to buy back only 20 percent of the water rights he lost – and the compensation is only temporary.
He said the farmers were desperate to know why the water was taken in the first place, when studies from the CSIRO showed that it was not necessary and why it was not returned.
& # 39; The government has taken our water and neither party can tell us why, & # 39; he said.
MP Helen Dalton (pictured on her farm) said the government's actions were both heartless and malignant. goods
& # 39; They keep making excuses, blaming each other, but the farmers are suffering. & # 39;
The farmer said that the loss of water, a property on which people had taken out mortgages, had destroyed his community and had torn families apart.
& # 39; I was almost like a counselor – everyone came to me with their problems, and I just couldn't do it anymore, & # 39; he said.
& # 39; You have people in your kitchen crying because they have lost everything, and the government doesn't care. & # 39;
Helen Dalton, the MP of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party for Murray, said the government's actions were both “heartless and malignant”. goods.
& # 39; The farmers are the victims here. The government was wrong. The victims are now stabbed for legal costs. It's insane, & she said.
& # 39; I understand that some farmers on the list have since committed suicide. It seems that the government is going to pursue money from their family members. That's just insane, you can imagine the extra trauma it adds to these families. It's like kicking a dog when it's down & # 39 ;.
Ms. Dalton said she wanted NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to intervene and waive legal fees – and apologize to these farmers and their families.
& # 39; During this drought, the government should help farmers, not paralyze them with completely unjustified legal bills, & # 39; she said.
Daily Mail Australia contacted Waterminister for comment, but received no response prior to publication.
Farmers and their families have protested to get back the water that has been taken from them according to the current basin plan, but have not been successful so far
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