Water woes worry growers

Tari JeffersManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Water licence fees and water allocation limits for food production is a concern for some producers in West Manjimup.
Camera IconWater licence fees and water allocation limits for food production is a concern for some producers in West Manjimup. Credit: Tari Jeffers

A group of self-supply water users in the region are uncertain about future access to water if the proposed Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme goes ahead.

The group’s concerns include issues of water allocation and proposed fees and charges and how they could affect property rights and water security for privately-funded, self-supplied water users in the region.

The $80 million irrigation project would include the construction of a 15-gigalitre dam with a network of irrigation pipes to help drought-proof participating growers.

While the scheme has already secured $19 million in State funding, Federal funding is yet to be accessed.

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Members of the Western Australian Water Users Coalition held a meeting at the Yanmah Bushfire Brigade on Friday where they discussed the issues that could affect them.

About 30 people attended the meeting and coalition members decided to request a meeting with the Warren Donnelly Water Advisory Committee and present a petition to WA Parliament to ensure the growing of produce continued to expand in the region.

Coalition member and avocado grower Kim Skoss said the uncertainty in the industry had already affected him because he had to cut back an order of avocado trees for his property.

“We order trees two to three years in advance and we look at their peak water use in 10 years,” Mr Skoss said.

He added he was concerned about misinformation that water was fully allocated in the region, but that only applied to the Manjimup Brook/Yanmah-Dixvale catchment and not other catchments such as Middle Donnelly, Lower Donnelly and Upper Donnelly. Mr Skoss and a delegation visited Bunbury yesterday to meet with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation to discuss cost recovery measures, including proposed assessment fees for new water licences ranging from $5300 to $8900.

“We wanted to reiterate our concerns and the impact of the proposed measures on self-supply irrigators,” he said.

Olea Nurseries owner/manager David Bazzani said while progress was great, it had to be fair.

“The self-supply system – when given fair access to water – has worked and will continue to work and expand on its own in this area,” he said.

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