Case For Manjimup Water Trading Dries Up As Community Opposition Intensifies

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers brought growing community discontent about the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme (SFIS) to Parliament this week when she tabled a petition on behalf of over 3000 people opposed to the Manjimup water-trading scheme.

The petition was tabled on behalf of the Save Our Donnelly River community group on Tuesday and is the second petition Ms Evers has brought to Parliament regarding the scheme in the last 18 months.

Ms Evers said the increase in the number of signatories to a petition to stop the SFIS – from 862 in June 2019 to the current total of 3112 petitioners – was reflective of the momentum of outrage about the scheme’s inappropriateness.

The petitioners have asked the Legislative Council to withdraw state government approval and funding for the SFIS on the grounds that:

  • The average flow in the Donnelly River has declined as much as 65% since the 1990s.
  • Numerous species of vulnerable, threatened and critically endangered species of flora and fauna will be directly impacted by this proposal.
  • The Stewart Tree, WA’s tallest tree, and numerous ancient trees of significance are located within the dam impact zone on Record Brook.
  • An 85 per cent taxpayer-funded project should not be in the control of a privately-owned cooperative, exclusively benefitting 15 per cent of the farmers in the region.

Ms Evers said recent information provided by the Department of Water and Environment indicated reliability of the water for the scheme was only 44 per cent over a modelling period for the previous nine years.

This reliability would be dependent on fluctuating frequency of wetter years in a drying climate and would have seen the proposed dam totally emptied of its usable capacity for five out of the nine years.

Ms Evers said it was becoming clear that the WA Labor Government was making public statements in support of action on climate and water scarcity, without doing the work to enact the necessary investment, policy and scrutiny of existing projects like the SFIS to mitigate the climate crisis.

In recent weeks, Water Minister Dave Kelly MLA has launched the Water Corporation’s Think climate change. Be waterwise campaign, highlighting “the impacts of climate change and the significant reduction in rainfall and runoff into our dams”, while also stating the “need to rethink how we use our precious water resources”.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“It is clear to an overwhelming majority that the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme is an inequitable water trading scheme with potentially disastrous impacts on community and the environment.

“The SFIS is 85 per cent funded by taxpayers, but locks-out 85 per cent of farming businesses, with 70 farming families to pay one dollar in eight for a water-trading scheme on state forest land.

“It is totally inappropriate for such an impactful scheme to be owned by the Southern Forest Irrigation Co-operative – made up of a handful of directors and an unknown, undisclosed investor – in an agricultural region needing sustainable water supply for all.

“The fact is that Western Australia is dealing with water rights reliant on an Act from 1914 and rainfall data going back to 1975.

“Good forest and the world’s tallest karri tree are at risk from the environmental impact of the SFIS, with 160ha of healthy, resilient forest to be inundated and 142ha of forest to be cleared.

“River flows will be squeezed to a drop for a project that lacks transparency and could yet be blocked on environmental grounds.

“With such inequity, community discord and a lack of transparency, the time has come for Premier McGowan and his ministry to show leadership on this issue now, before it boils over.

“Simply put: this is a bad project that must be stopped – we must not damn the Donnelly.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070