LANDOWNERS are “outraged” by water allocation measures announced by the State Government today, North Wanneroo Residents Association chairman Mark Zagar says.
Water Minister Dave Kelly announced a 10 per cent reduction in groundwater allocations from 2028, while Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan announced plans to develop a business case for a leasehold agri-precinct in State Forest and a water-use efficiency program.
Mr Zagar said the announcements were “a bandaid fix at best”.
They came hours before a public meeting organised by the association tonight to highlight water concerns for landowners in Carabooda, Nowergup and Neerabup.
A State Government statement said in 2016 the previous government proposed a 25 per cent reduction of groundwater allocations, but Water Minister Dave Kelly is now proposing a 10 per cent reduction from 2028.
It followed the North Wanneroo Agriculture and Water Taskforce’s investigation last year into options to support agriculture while addressing the issue of declining water availability in Carabooda and Nowergup.
“Because of climate change, groundwater taken from Perth’s groundwater aquifers north of the Swan River needs to be reduced within the next decade,” Mr Kelly said.
“This will ensure groundwater remains a long-term viable and low-cost water source for Perth, and continues to support important wetlands and vegetation around our city.
“The 10 per cent reduction to groundwater use will not be implemented until 2028 – this scale and timeframe for this reduction will make it easier for people to adjust.”
Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton said she was proud the State Government had resolved the longstanding water security issue and it would strike a balance between the needs of growers and ensuring long-term water sustainability.
The State Government recognised north Wanneroo had been a traditional farming area supplying fruit and vegetables to Perth, interstate and overseas, with an estimated production value of $47.7 million in 2015-16.
“North Wanneroo’s agriculture industry continues to make a significant contribution to the local economy and the State’s agricultural exports,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“Now that we have clarity on water allocation for the next 10 years, we can work together with industry to improve water efficiency.
“There are constraints around water availability and growers need to be supported to operate in a drier climate.
“Our water-use efficiency program will assess techniques and systems to help growers.
“The State Government will work with growers and the local community to develop a water scheme and lead a cost benefit analysis on a new agricultural precinct at State Forest 65.”
Mr Zagar said the group wanted the State Government to implement recommendations to create a rural lifestyle precinct in the west and open land to the east for agriculture.
He said they felt ignored and were still concerned recommendations in the taskforce’s report would not address long-term issues.
“There’s some very concerning passages in there that basically say they are going to take our water away slowly,” he said.
Opposition water spokesman David Honey called on the State Government to do more to give growers certainty.
“A 10 per cent reduction will also still have a severe impact on the viability of our local farmers,” he said.
“The government should be doing more to grow the industry by making more water available, not scaling the industry back by reducing water allocations.
“We have a world class recharge facility that is currently dumping recycled water into the ocean – surely we could revisit this waste of supply with a view to pumping the recycled water back into the groundwater as a way of increasing water supply.”
The draft Gnangara groundwater allocation plan, due to be released for a three-month public consultation period later this year, will include the proposed 10 per cent reduction.
Fore more information on the North Wanneroo Agriculture and Water Taskforce report and State Government response, visit www.agric.wa.gov.au .
Mr Kelly also opened up grants to farmers and other landowners interested in establishing pine plantations to increase WA’s softwood resource today.
The Forest Products Commission Farm Forestry Assist grant offers free radiata pine seedlings to landowners interested in establishing 20ha to 50ha plantations.
Applications are open until 5pm on March 29 – visit www.fpc.wa.gov.au .