A PETITION opposing water charges or reductions in water allocations for North Wanneroo growers and landowners was presented to the Legislative Council on Tuesday, December 3.
The petition with more than 1000 signatures was organised by the North Wanneroo Residents Association (NWRA) and said if water charges or water licence allocation reductions were implemented it would result in economic hardship, devaluation of properties and businesses and the economic decline of the area.
NWRA chairman Mark Zagar said Wanneroo residents were extremely sympathetic of how hard farmers were struggling already and were outraged by the proposed water license cuts which would make many farmers go broke and lose everything their multi-generational families had worked for and would lead to the land becoming unviable and derelict.
“The state government’s announcement to cut water licences has already devalued North Wanneroo properties and businesses, creating negative equity, mortgage stress, killing investment, growth and jobs,’’ he said.
“It is having enormous negative impact on the local economy and jobs, destroying livelihoods and assets – it is a lose-lose scenario, not a solution.’’
The former Barnett government had proposed a 25 per cent reduction to groundwater allocations but when the McGowan Government was elected it decided to reduce allocations by 10 per cent from 2028.
Wanneroo MLA Sabine Winton said this was a responsible decision and importantly accepted that because of climate change, groundwater taken from Perth’s groundwater aquifers north of the Swan River needed to be reduced within the next decade.
Ms Winton said the petition was calling for something the government had already initiated and was working on after it had committed to work towards resolving water allocation and land use issues in the area.
“To this end we established the North Wanneroo agriculture and water taskforce of which I was the chair,’’ she said.
“It finalised its report and is currently under consideration by government agencies.
“The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is already actioning some of those recommendations.
“DPIRD is currently developing a business case that includes cost benefit analysis and approvals pathways required for a new leasehold agri-precinct supplied with recycled water.
“This is the most important task, to determine the availability of a new water source.’’
South Metropolitan MLC Aaron Stonehouse who tabled the petition said the solution to a water crisis caused by climate change was not to make arbitrary cuts to water allowances, but rather to provide people with a greater degree of control over their land and their water entitlements, so that they could manage both of them more effectively.
He said this meant allowing growers to hold water licences in perpetuity and to trade water allowances with one another, rather than having to first gain ministerial approval.
MS Winton said Cabinet had approved drafting of the Water Resource Management Bill and questions in relation to water entitlements and licences would be addressed through the proposed legislation.
“That is the appropriate means by which those issues which have state-wide impacts on water licencing will be addressed,’’ she said.
In reference to comments about licence charges Ms Winton said Water Minister Dave Kelly announced in May the government’s decision not to expand the transactional water licence and permit fees to the agricultural sector.
She said any consideration or action to provide planning solutions was premature and would be irresponsible until the long term water supply options were finalised.
“In any event consolidation of existing licences as proposed does not provide a new source of water or provide additional water for the agricultural sector,’’ she said.
“Any recommendations or possible consideration of alternative land use options should only be considered once the outcome of a potential new source of water is finalised.’’
Mr Zagar said everyone was against cutting water licenses – all North Wanneroo farmers and property owners, Vegetables WA, the City of Wanneroo and the state opposition.
“The state government is not listening to the people, all industry consultants of the agriculture and water taskforce have resigned,’’ he said.
“We are united in the logical win-win solution, either: A) no water cuts (the government currently pumps billions of litres of treated waste water into the ocean) or B) sensible planning solution (sensible subdivision of unviable farms, creating capital to relocate where appropriate, remaining farmers retain 100 per cent of their water licenses).’’
The petition called for consolidation of water licences to viable agricultural areas east, through allowing for the enactment of the Western Australia Planning Commission’s Future of East Wanneroo Report, which the petition said advocated for small lot rural living subdivision to less viable agricultural areas west.
The petition also called for the implementation of the promised but stalled Water Resources Management Act in Western Australia in line with the National Water Initiative, which would consolidate six existing Acts into one Act and provide for a water planning, entitlement and trading framework that applies in other states of Australia.
It also called for the creation of a new intensive agricultural precinct to the east of the Carabooda–Nowergup Valley, including cleared pine forest land, to provide big landholdings and secure water supplies for viable, large economies of scale economic food production indefinitely