A PUBLIC meeting on a water crisis facing growers and rural landowners in the City of Wanneroo attracted about 100 people last night.
The recently-formed North Wanneroo Residents Association hosted the January 30 meeting at Wanneroo Community Centre as part of its campaign against groundwater allocation cuts proposed by the State Government and a plan to rezone land.
In 2016, the previous government had proposed a 25 per cent reduction, however hours before the public meeting, Water Minister Dave Kelly announced plans to introduce a 10 per cent reduction in 2028 instead.
Tying in with the water licences, Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan released the North Wanneroo Agriculture and Water Taskforce’s report on its investigations last year into options to support agriculture, and her response to it.
Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton, who chaired the taskforce, was one of the speakers at the public meeting followed by Opposition water spokesman David Honey and realtor Thomas Massam.
Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts and the City’s planning and sustainability director Mark Dickson also spoke, as did Ken Blakers from Aqua Ferre on his report proposing a solution to the issues facing landowners.
Association chairman Mark Zagar said if water licences for landowners in Carabooda, Nowergup and Neerabup were cut, it would have a massive effect on their incomes, property values and business values.
“It’s extremely important that we do not have water cuts; if we do, we need to be compensated,” he said.
Ms Winton, who also lives in Nowergup, said the taskforce focused on sustainable agriculture, looking at future water allocations and new water sources.
“We have accepted that we have a water crisis on our hands with the Gnangara Mound,” she said.
“Water Corporation is going to have to cop bigger cuts because the farmers aren’t going to have as big a cut.”
Ms Winton said the taskforce’s key recommendations were that the State Government should proceed with a business case for an agricultural precinct in the state forest and recycling waste water from the Alkimos treatment plant.
She said while the 10 per cent cut was not popular, it was the responsible decision given the drying climate, and that Ms MacTiernan has also announced a water-use efficiency program to help farmers adjust.
Mr Honey said Wednesday’s announcements did not give growers certainty as the nine-year timeframe for cuts was two elections and “potentially two different governments” away.
“It’s not delivering certainty; it’s just kicking the can down the road,” he said.
“Instead of cutting, we need a serious effort and input from government to identify other water sources.”
Ms Massam said property values for rural properties in the area had dropped by about 50 per cent since 2007, noting a 37ha property bought for $2 million in 2007 recently sold for $750,000.
“This is a major disaster for the old pioneers of the district who need the funds from their properties for their retirement,” he said.
“Over the years, I have sadly watched the degeneration of our last market gardens and our orchards through the Carabooda, Nowergup and Neerabup areas.
“I’ve seen the desolation of our farms; the disappearance of our lakes, water birds, turtles, native fish, and the stream that used to run through the caves at Yanchep and the unique blind fish that used to be in there.”
Mrs Roberts said the City was cutting back its water use by creating dry parks and verges, and focusing irrigation on sports ovals and public spaces that were actively used.
Mr Dickson said the City was reviewing planning documents and a tourism strategy that could guide future uses of land in the area.
Mr Blakers said having water cuts without compensation was not fair on people who had invested millions over their lifetime in their properties.
He said if government was going to take 10 per cent of their land for road projects, they would be compensated and the same should apply for water allocations, as had been done in other parts of Australia.
Mr Zagar urged landowners to be vocal and join the association’s campaign by filling our expressions of interest and signing a petition.
“The fact that there were announcements made shows that they are listening to us; we have made some progress,” he said.
“We are going to have to keep up the fight.”
The North Wanneroo Agriculture and Water Taskforce report and State Government response can be found at http://www.agric.wa.gov.au