Growers in the South West’s premier food bowl feel they have been left with more questions than answers after the latest State Government announcement regarding water security in the Manjimup and Pemberton region. Last Tuesday the State Government finally unveiled its plan for the $15.3 million earmarked for the Manjimup and Pemberton region after the contentious Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme was officially scrapped in July last year. Western Australian Water Users Coalition chairman Bevan Eatts said he was unsure what came next for local farmers. “It’s a nothing announcement really,” he said. “The reality is it’s left all the farmers in the area with the same outcome.” The plan has been developed off the back of the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme Reference Group report provided to the State in early February. State Government support will now be directed to individual growers to drought-proof their business, and co-fund projects underpinned by science that demonstrate an increase in water security, provide benefits to the broader Manjimup-Pemberton community and consider the water needs of the environment. After reading through the report provided by the SFISRG, Mr Eatts said he had been left wondering with several questions. “What happens next?” he said. “We need more detail on how it is all going to work and whom takes on the responsibility. “Who is going to drive the changes around bankable water? Is it the Department of Water or the Warren Donnelly Water Advisory Committee? And how soon before we see a change in the carry over water policy? How do the envisage the localised water trading schemes working and who approves the project funding to the successful applicants?” Mr Eatts said the new water legislation due to be released later this year would play a big role in the future of water security in the region and a public meeting on the issue would be held at the Manjimup Town Hall at 2pm on September 18. “The purpose of the meeting is to be proactive and engage with the government on the proposed new water legislation before it is rammed through Parliament,” he said. “WAWUC are very concerned around the Minister’s broad comments of consideration of Indigenous rights to water in the new legislation and what that entails. “As details are not forthcoming and there seems to be a reluctance from the Minister to engage with stakeholders before the introduction of new legislation to Parliament, we thought we would invite as many politicians as we can get to the meeting to inform them of farmers’ concerns and how the current water licence system works.” The Coalition has invited several speakers to attend the meeting, including DWER’s Don Cummings, Member for Warren-Blackwood Jane Kelsbie, Minister for Water Simone McGurk, Phil and Matilda from Bailiwick Legal, and Tim Houweling from Cornerstone Legal.