North Wanneroo Residents Association campaigns to address water crisis for growers

North Wanneroo Residents Association's Chris Waddell says the Nowergup-Carabooda Valley could become
North Wanneroo Residents Association's Chris Waddell says the Nowergup-Carabooda Valley could become "a little Swan Valley for the northern corridor". Pictures: Martin Kennealey d490108

A NEWLY formed residents association is rallying rural landowners in Perth’s north to lobby against water licence allocation cuts and to create agricultural and tourism precincts.

The North Wanneroo Residents Association represents landowners in Carabooda, Nowergup and Neerabup and has come up with a proposed solution to the water crisis in the City of Wanneroo’s north east.

The group has sent letters outlining the proposal to more than 170 properties this week and plans to hold a public meeting in Wanneroo on January 30.

Chairman Mark Zagar said residents formed the association to work with the community and government to find a solution after the Department of Water announced cuts to water licences.

The Nowergup resident said the measures would “destroy agriculture” in the region, impacting on pioneering farming families and property values.

The association wants to see a decade-old State Government proposal in the Future of East Wanneroo Report to consolidate water licences, and implementation of a Water Resources Management Plan.

“There is a win-win solution that would create prosperity for all, a future proof agricultural district and a valuable natural wetland, recreation, tourism and lifestyle asset,” Mr Zagar said.

It would involve creating an agricultural precinct to the east and rezone land nearer Wanneroo Road for a rural lifestyle and tourism precinct.

The WA Planning Commission’s Future of East Wanneroo recommendation.

Carabooda resident Chris Waddell said the proposal could create “a little Swan Valley for the northern corridor”.

“If it’s done properly, it will be a wonderful thing for Perth,” he said.

Mr Waddell, who has an olive grove with 300 trees on his property, said the water crisis threatened the livelihoods of growers and their families who were the “backbone of market gardens in WA”.

“Many farms have gone under because they can’t survive with current water allocations,” he said.

“Most of those lakes have already dried up; the underground water tables have dropped (and) a lot of farms have become derelict.”

Mr Waddell said only about 10 per cent of growers who had water licences 20 years ago were still operating in the region.

He said the association would be seeking support for the plan from the State Government and City of Wanneroo as well as landowners.

The association sent expression of interest forms, prepared by Aqua Ferre, to landowners in mid-January and will hold the public meeting at the Wanneroo Community Centre, 23 Civic Drive on January 30 from 6pm to 8pm.

It wanted to ensure farmers could have the option to continue farming if guaranteed their current water licence allocations, as cuts could make businesses unviable.

The letter said many rural lifestyle residents on unused farmland were struggling to maintain large blocks and were concerned water cuts and charges would reduce property values, increase costs and increase fire hazards.

“Farmers do not accept that the proposed solution to slowly introduce water cuts, coupled with charges for possible recycled water, provide a viable solution but rather a slow death by a thousand cuts,” it said.

It suggested creation of an intensive agricultural precinct east of the Carabooda-Nowergup Valley, including cleared pine forests, could provide large landholdings and secure water supplies for food production.

The letter said landowners did not support blanket rezoning of the area to priority agricultural land as it would restrict land use.