North Wanneroo growers seek solutions

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Politicians at the North Wanneroo Resident’s Association meeting were questioned about their stance on proposed water cuts for growers in Nowergup, Neerabup and Carabooda.

NORTH Wanneroo growers want a long term solution to the water crisis facing their industry with some saying a proposed 10 per cent cut risks their survival.

On Sunday, May 5 North Wanneroo Resident’s Association members met with some of the Pearce election candidates to seek their support.

Labor candidate for Pearce Kim Travers said if elected a Shorten government would put $500,000 towards a sustainable water solution for horticulturalists in North Wanneroo and Carabooda.

Ms Travers said the state Labor government had allocated $720,000 towards a new water use efficiency program and developing a business case for a new agri-precinct in state forest 65 in north Wanneroo, incorporating the use of recycled water.

“A federal Labor government will support those efforts and local growers, with $500,000 to progress the development of a technical solution and business case for a new sustainable water supply scheme and support the establishment of a growers cooperative to maintain and grow the Wanneroo and Carabooda irrigated agricultural industry,’’ she said.

In nine years the growers face the prospect of a 10 per cent cut to the amount of water they can use with Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton and Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan quick to point out this was better than the 25 per cent cut the former Barnett government was going to apply.

But growers said the lack of a secure water supply would send them broke before they could take advantage of the McGowan government’s proposed agricultural precinct in state forest 65.

North Wanneroo Resident’s Association chairman Mark Zagar, whose family have farmed in Nowergup since 1967, said a 10 per cent reduction in water available to growers meant they would be unlikely to survive and multinational companies would be the only ones able to take advantage of the proposed precinct.

The sustainable water solution involves a proposal to use grey water from the Alkimos wastewater treatment plant.

Ms MacTiernan said business case studies were necessary to determine the cost of putting water directly into the Gnangara mound compared with piping the water straight to growers as the level of water treatment for each was different.

She said biosecurity was vital and referenced the listeria outbreak that had wreaked havoc on the rockmelon industry in March 2018.

Charlie Canzirri of Carabooda asked Ms MacTiernan who paid for the waste water that was currently pumped out to sea and she said the water corporation.

She said the figures for getting water direct to growers were coming in from $30 million up to $120m so clarity over the costs was necessary.

“For Sabine, Kim and I to go into bat for you we have to be able to have a reputable document that says this is what it will cost,’’ she said.

Towards the end of the meeting state Opposition Water spokesman David Honey said the state government should use some of the big profits the Water Corporation had made to pay for securing water for growers.

Western Australian Party candidate for Pearce Michael Calautti said if elected his party would not support the water cut.

Mr Zagar said incumbent Pearce MHR Christian Porter had sent two letters of support but no commitment at this stage.

City of Wanneroo councillors will be voting on the city’s response to an update from the State Government North Wanneroo Agriculture and Water Taskforce on Tuesday evening.

An officer’s report for the meeting said the city acknowledged the system was over-allocated and that less water needed to be abstracted or managed aquifer recharge (MAR) used to bring the groundwater system back into balance.

“But the city cannot support a blanket 10 per cent reduction to all licence holders and would like to work with the state government to find a long term solution to this issue,’’ the report said.

“The city sees an opportunity to futureproof the agricultural industry in North Wanneroo and offer long term water security allowing for investment from existing and new agri-businesses as well as securing locally produced food supplies for the growing Perth metropolitan region and Western Australia generally.

“For this to occur, further investigation into viable alternative water supply options for the existing licence holders needs to take priority.’’

Central ward councillor Paul Miles said he would be supporting the officer’s recommendation.