WA growers welcome decision on water licence fees

Growers in north Wanneroo fear a water crisis.
Growers in north Wanneroo fear a water crisis.

UPDATE, May 6: GROWERS have welcomed a State Government decision to scrap water licensing fees for farmers.

vegetablesWA has welcomed Water Minister Dave Kelly’s announcement last Friday that the State Government would not extend water licensing fees to growers.

The organisation had been lobbying against the proposed changes alongside the WA Farmers Federation, Pomewest, WA Citrus, WA Potatoes and Wines of Western Australia amid fears it would have had a severe impact on growers.

vegetablesWA chief executive John Shannon said the announcement created certainty for growers.

“The proposed changes had the potential to cripple dozens of family-owned vegetable growing businesses throughout the state,” he said.

“This result is a direct reflection of the strong engagement by growers and industry in voicing their concerns and taking part in the process.”

Opposition spokesman David Honey said licence fees would have had a disproportionate effect on smaller agricultural businesses that relied on licensed water supplies.

“Growers believed this was an unfair impost on their businesses that could affect the viability of many smaller operators,” he said.

At North Wanneroo Residents Association’s rally against other plans for a 10 per cent reduction in groundwater allocations on Sunday, Mr Honey said there were alternative water supplies to consider without cutting the water allocations for growers.

Speakers at the North Wanneroo Residents Association rally.

EARLIER: THE State Government has scrapped plans to charge farmers fees for water licensing.

Following consultation, Water Minister Dave Kelly today confirmed agriculture and other sectors would not face user-pays fees to recoup the $15 million annual cost to taxpayers for the State to administer water licensing.

The fees currently apply only to the mining and public water supply sectors.

“Last year we introduced regulations for water licence and permit assessment fees for the mining and public water supply sectors, which use large volumes of water and require significant effort in assessing applications,” Mr Kelly said.

“After industry consultation, the McGowan Government has listened to the community and has decided not to extend licence fees to other sectors such as agriculture.”

Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton and Water Minister Dave Kelly.

On May 3, Mr Kelly released a report on consultation, undertaken over a 14-week period last August to November by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation on the recovery of some costs to assess water licences and permits.

Of the 176 written submissions and 257 participants at seven workshops across the State, there was some support for a level of cost-recovery if the revenue improved the existing regulatory system and timeliness of service delivery to licensed water users.

Feedback was also received on the potential financial impact of fees on business and communities.

Government has responded to this feedback in its decision to not expand the transactional water licence and permit fees beyond the mining and public water supply sectors.

Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton said the announcement was welcome news for growers in the City of Wanneroo.

“Wanneroo is a significant contributor to the State’s agriculture sector, producing nearly 40 per cent of the State’s fruit and vegetables,” she said.

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