A desperate Morrison Government is prioritising cheap vote-grabbing over farmers’ interests by announcing pre-election funding for the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme (SFIS), according to The Greens (WA) water spokesperson Diane Evers.
In a media interview following the announcement, WA Nationals MP Terry Redman confirmed the funding had been passed by federal cabinet prior to the election being called on April 11, but the announcement by Liberal member for O’Connor Rick Wilson did not occur until yesterday.
With the announcement in Manjimup occurring the same day pre-polling opened, Ms Evers believes the poorly concealed strategy will not wash with the majority of disenfranchised local farmers.
Of 452 agricultural businesses in the Southern Forests Region, only 68 have chosen to join the SFIS, with farm-owners’ pledges of $10 million to be eclipsed by $59 million of taxpayer funding.
As a result, the scheme will see a minority of local landowners subsidised by significant government support based on stakeholders’ ability to buy-in, with others along the pipeline only able to access the water by purchasing it off their neighbours.
A number of approvals remain pending before the scheme can go ahead, such as last month’s determination by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) that a full environmental assessment of the SFIS would be required.
Water for the scheme will be pumped from the Donnelly River into a dam at Record Brook.
Ms Evers highlighted potential issues of water availability for local farmers and the downstream supply for farmers and the environment.
Quotes attributed to Diane Evers MLC:
“This has always been a ‘first-in, best-dressed’ process and I am very disappointed to now see further funding allocated on the day pre-polls open.
“This was clearly planned well in advance but it is not going to win over people, as the scheme will only benefit a few wealthy landowners.
“Locals want to use water and will be hindered by the SFIS, but I intend to ensure the community — those who are missing out — are helped to be given the loudest voice.
“We also need to see the EPA assessment carried out, in particular with regard to the environmental needs for water downstream.
“With observable climate change and less rainfall, I am very concerned with how the state intends to manage water supplies.
“Forests require water to thrive and the sheer fact is that water will be taken from the Warren-Donnelly catchment area to serve a privileged few.
“Those people and corporations who purchased land with limited water supply, will now get water subsidised by the state and federal governments..
“To add insult to injury, pipelines for the supply of water will even go over the lands of those who are not entitled to access it.
“At its core, this is a scheme of inequity and unfairness, with original claims about its benefits to jobs growth constantly being revised downward.
“In fact, at least a quarter of this water supply will be to serve existing farm needs, and there are suggestions that figure may be higher given decreasing annual rainfall.
“I remain hopeful the EPA assessment may be where this scheme stalls and I’m sure a great number of people will be working to present fair evidence to support such an outcome.
GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070