Scheme Scheduling a Cause for Alarm

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The Greens (WA) regional development and water spokesperson Diane Evers is concerned the timing of the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme’s (SFIS) referral to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) could be a strategic attempt to avoid proper scrutiny from Manjimup and Pemberton residents.

A seven-day public comment period closes on Thursday, February 7 and Ms Evers believes SF Irrigation Co-operative Ltd, the industry body responsible for referring the proposal to the EPA, have not followed good process by remaining silent.

“The public comment period for this assessment opened on a Friday and has not been supported with any kind of formal announcement by SF Irrigation Co-operative Ltd or the State Government,” she said.

“The proponents of the SFIS are well-aware of opposition to the plan and would no doubt appreciate the vociferous opposition being minimised during an environmental assessment.

“EPA assessment of this scheme is absolutely necessary and awareness of the scheme’s adverse environmental impact, coupled with unfair outcomes for those who are not involved, is the reason for community opposition to the proposal.

Ms Evers has encouraged Manjimup and Pemberton landowners who are concerned about such issues to make a submission to the EPA before Thursday asking for a full public environmental review.

“The SFIS will have a major environmental impact in the forested catchment of one of the few remaining freshwater rivers in the South West Region,” she said.

“With long term consequences on the Donnelly River, the cost of food production and major unnecessary environmental impacts on the forest, action must be taken to show the McGowan Government how unsuitable this scheme is.”

Ms Evers also said the scheme, which was originally mooted for referral to the EPA almost a year ago, has drawn strong criticism from local growers as being inequitable because of how it favours only those who could afford to buy-in.

“$70 million of government funding is being put into a project that will benefit 68 people, who have pledged to contribute $10 million,” she said.

“Those 68 people who have the resources to invest in the project are essentially receiving a 700 per cent subsidy from the Government for land they purchased, knowing there was limited water catchment.

“Meanwhile, self-supply water users are disadvantaged by a price being unnecessarily applied to water used for food production and existing applications for water allocations are being refused due to surface water resources being fully allocated.

The SFIS scheme was proposed by the previous Barnett ministry as part of its Water for Food project and in November a 322-signature petition was presented to parliament requesting a moratorium be enacted until independent scrutiny of public consultation, economic and environmental issues could be carried out.

Comments on the referred proposal asking for a full public environmental review can be made on the EPA’s website by following this link.

Fact File: Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme
  • State and federal funding for SFIS more than 85% of its total cost, despite scheme water being limited to just 68 people who make a financial contribution1
  • Scheme proposes construction of a 15 gigalitre dam and 250km pipeline distribution network through private farm land. Landowners who have not contributed receive no benefit even if pipelines pass through their property1
  • In December 2017 the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation temporarily suspended new water allocation licences in eight sub-catchments of the Donnelly River catchment area for 12 months1
  • As a result, 11 water allocation applications were refused in the Warren-Donnelly catchment area in the 12 months prior to November 20182
  • Under the SFIS, as an example, a food producer constructing a new 100ML farm dam will be required to pay $100,000 for access to water and annual charges by SFIS of $17,2001
Fact File: Manjimup/Pemberton Agricultural Area
  • Manjimup area regarded as the ‘food bowl of the South West’1
  • Self-supply water is the basis of $230 million in food production in the Shire of Manjimup1
  • Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners group wrote to State Premier Mark McGowan (January 2018), State Minister for Regional Development Alannah MacTiernan and Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack (both January 2019) on the matter1,3
  • Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners group have requested a full public environmental review of SFIS1
  • Success of food production in Manjimup and Pemberton is based on self-supply water in private farm dams1
References:
  1. Diane Evers letter to Federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack, 4 October 2018
  2. Parliamentary Debates (HANSARD), 22 November 2018
  3. Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners letter to Minister for Regional Development; Agriculture and Food, 18 January 2019

 

Get in touch:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

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