Harassment Claims As Local Farmers Call For Government Intervention

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KEY POINTS:

  • Harassment of local businesses who supported June petition to stop the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme
  • Local farmers call on McGowan Government to withdraw funding
  • Massive community opposition outnumbering support
  • Water trading scheme yet to pass environmental review
  • Planned community gathering for Friday, 23rd of August

Heavy-handed intimidation tactics are being employed in response to growing public opposition against the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme (SFIS), according to concerned members of the local community. The claims come ahead of a community gathering at impact site to be attended by South West MLC Diane Evers next Friday — and after almost 1,000 members of the South West community signed a petition requesting that the SFIS be stopped.

Information in the publicly available petition to WA Parliament, which was tabled by Ms Evers in June, is alleged to have been used by backers of the SFIS to identify and target those who signed the document. Local sources indicated the harassment of businesses in the region by several pro-SFIS individuals took the form of threats to end long-standing trading relationships as a consequence of supporting the petition.

According to the Legislative Council Administration Office, if a petitioner is subjected to any treatment in the nature of harassment or interference, this may be considered a contempt of the Council and penalties may be imposed on offenders.

John Kilrain, a West Manjimup farmer who opposes the SFIS, said he was worried tensions could worsen and called on the McGowan Government to act in the public interest.

“Intimidation in the region is not acceptable and will not be tolerated,” he said.
“If it continues, those doing so will be held accountable.
“The State Government needs to get a better understanding of just how little support exists for this water trading scheme, and withdraw its funding before this escalates.
“Everyone needs to live in this community and was good friends until this water trading scheme came about.
“We don’t want this getting personal, our community has always been united previously.”

Yanmah farmer Brian Vallentine agreed that the McGowan Government should withdraw funding and that claims of harassment and interference were against the spirit of community.

“This behaviour is not on, people have a right to freedom of speech and they exercised it by signing the petition,” he said.
“The best thing that could happen is if the State Government withdrew its funding.”

Mr Kilrain said the water trading scheme, which could yet be rejected by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) after it requested a Public Environmental Review in April, could not be supported.

“The current proposal is environmentally, sustainably and economically not acceptable,” he said.
“The interests of the few have been prioritised over that of the many, caused by a lack of consultation and not following due process.”

Despite there being 452 agricultural businesses in the Southern Forests Region, only 70 people have chosen to join the SFIS, with farm-owners’ pledges of $10 million to be eclipsed by $59 million of taxpayer funding.

Both Mr Kilrain and Mr Vallentine are members of the Don’t Dam the Donnelly community group, which has been representing those who do not want to see the water trading scheme proceed. Ms Evers and the Don’t Dam the Donnelly group will be hosting a community gathering and barbecue on Friday, 23rd of August, including a visit to the potential impact sites. The public is invited join and learn more about the water trading scheme’s perverse consequences on the Southern Forests Region.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“It is becoming clear that the proponents of this unfair water trading scheme are finally realising that public opposition to the SFIS is overwhelming.
“Opposition to the SFIS now outstrips its support by ten-fold and more, as was evidenced by the number of people willing to put their name to the petition tabled in Parliament.
“The South West is a big place, but a small community, so if people are willing to stake their personal information to a cause, you’d better believe they are committed to it.
“Any inappropriate behaviour in response to this sensible community resistance would no doubt be out of desperation — the people are being heard.
“The growing awareness of this scheme’s inequity is unsurprising, given that the SFIS will see a minority of local landowners subsidised by significant government support.
“This has been based entirely on stakeholders’ ability to buy-in, with others along the pipeline only able to access the water by purchasing it off their neighbours.”

FACT FILE:

The Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme is an agricultural irrigation scheme being developed in the Manjimup-Pemberton area in South West Region of Western Australia. The SFIS proposal aims to secure local water supplies through:

  • State and Federal funding comprising more than 85% of the total cost, despite scheme water being limited to just 70 landowners who make a financial contribution.
  • A 15-gigalitre dam and a 250km pipeline distribution network that will supply approximately 10 gigalitres of water annually to irrigate 1700ha of land, with only those investors that have purchased a water entitlement for the scheme will benefit. Landowners who have not contributed will get no benefit even if the pipeline passes beside their property.
  • Allowing the commercial trading of water between farms.
  • The SFIS will involve the clearing and/or inundation of over 320ha of valued Karri, Jarrah and Marri forest.
  • A likely and significant environmental impact on threatened ecological communities and species including:
    • Forest Red-tail Black Cockatoos;
    • Baudin’s Black Cockatoos;
    • Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos
    • Woylies;
    • Numbats;
    • Western ringtail possums;
    • Quokkas;
    • Chuditch/Western Quolls;
    • Balstons Pygmy Perchs;
    • Harringtons/Pink Spider Orchards;
    • Tall Donkey Orchids.
  • The potential disturbance of Aboriginal heritage sites.

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

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