Department admits to inconsistencies

Tristan WheelerManjimup-Bridgetown Times
A parliamentary report has cast doubt on the adminstration of spring rights in the Warren-Donnelly Catchment.
Camera IconA parliamentary report has cast doubt on the adminstration of spring rights in the Warren-Donnelly Catchment. Credit: South Western Times

Warren-Donnelly farmers have had a victory in their battle for access to water from springs after a Parliamentary report cast doubt on the spring water governance process.

Springs are exempt from water licensing requirements under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act.

Since 2016, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has been determining whether spring rights exemptions apply to properties in the Warren-Donnelly catchment using a new administrative process.

The Standing Committee on Public Administration found the Act did not empower DWER to determine whether the exemptions applied. The committee also found the Act did not require DWER to carry out the assessment, or specify an assessment process.

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Some of the wide-ranging concerns the committee expressed about DWER’s conduct in the Warren-Donelly catchment included inconsistent advice provided to landholders and tardy and incomplete communication about the new process with affected landholders.

As part of the committee’s inquiry into DWER’s assessment process, the department admitted it had provided inconsistent advice to farmers.

One example of inconsistent DWER advice cited by the committee in its report is the case of Garry Kilrain, who built a spring-fed dam and a pipeline based on a DWER assessment that a spring exemption applied to an area of his property, only to be subsequently told the exemption did not apply.

“We spent nearly $50,000, because we already purchased the pipe and were three quarters of the way through building it when they came back and said it wasn’t spring rights, it cost us a lot of money,” Mr Kilrain said.

“We’ve got plenty of debt already, without building things for the fun of it.”

Mr Kilrain said the area of his property where they built the dam experienced water flow all year round.

“We didn’t need to build a dam and wouldn’t have built a dam,” he said.

“It’s been two years of living hell trying to deal with these guys, they are just so inconsistent.

“I don’t think anyone in the community would disagree with that.

“It’s like banging your head against the wall dealing with them, that’s for sure.”

A department spokesman said they could not comment at this time.

“The State Government will respond fully to the wide-ranging recommendations of the standing committee on the Public Administration’s report into private property rights within two months of its tabling, as required by Parliament,” he said.

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