Newly formed Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme Reference Group members appointed

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie.
Camera IconWA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan and Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie. Credit: Melissa Pedelty/Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

The new task force formed to plan a revised water project to replace the ditched Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme has been unveiled.

The State Government announced earlier this month a reference group would be created to lead a water security initiative for farmers after the contentious scheme was officially canned.

Members of the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme Reference Group have now been announced, including farmers and civic leaders from the Manjimup-Pemberton area.

The group will be chaired by former Department of Agriculture and Food director general Ian Longson and include Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie and farmers Denise Jenkins, Monica Radomiljac, John Omodei, Donelle Buegge, Brad Wren, Tom Winfield and Bob Pessotto.

Ms Jenkins, who is also Manjimup Shire deputy president said the reference group was a wonderful opportunity to ensure there would be water security for farming and the environment.

“I take it very seriously and I believe that we can find a balanced outcome,” she said.

“It is one of the most critical issues facing the agriculture industry which I have been exposed to through the Shire, and it is crucial we find the best outcome for all.”

Mr Winfield, who has been farming for over 30 years in west Manjimup, said his input to the group will come from his experience as a grower that has been exercising best practice farming.

“Hopefully we can come up with a sensible solution,” he said, “It’s very important to me that we find an solution that is fair and equitable for all farmers.”

Mr Wren, a third generation farmer, said he had been concerned about our water issues since the early stages of SFIS over six years ago and is family farm focused.

“Changes in DWER (Department of Water and Environmental Regulation) management practices are required to let farmers farm within their means on their own properties.”

Ms Buegge, who is also a Warren Donnelly Water Advisory Committee member and shire councillor, said the group was an important step towards water security for the region in an open and transparent process.

“To be able to have conversations with growers, environmental groups, aquaculture, spring and self supply water users is essential for a solution that will equally benefit and satisfy, as much as possible, everyone,” she said.

“It will be those conversations that will give community feedback and ensure community support for suggestions that the group can work on with the WDWAC.

Ms Buegge said she would like to see a new approach to water security that involves looking at water management from DWER, allocation entitlements, what water we have currently available, and projected allocations.

Ms Radomiljac will also bring to the group her knowledge as Southern Forests Food Council chair.

The group will be supported by staff from the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development and the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation.

Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie and WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
Camera IconWarren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie and WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan. Credit: Melissa Pedelty/Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the reference group was an opportunity to develop practical and deliverable solutions to the problem of water security for the local horticulture industry in the face of a drying climate.

“We are pleased the Federal Government has agreed to our request to Minister Plibersek earlier this month to retain Federal funding for this project,” she said.

“With the State’s contribution, this provides significant capital to work with proponents to progress a suite of solutions for the region.”

The SFIS would have seen water pumped to a 15GL dam and distributed through 250km of pipelines to farmers but the $80m scheme was stopped after it was deemed not viable based on outdated water modelling.

Newly appointed members of the inaugural SFIS reference group will provide an interim report in three months time that will address future water security in the Lower South West.

Ms Kelsbie said she was excited to be a member of the formative group.

“We have listened and responded to community concerns about water resources in the Warren Donnelly and taken action to progress science-based solutions to water security,” she said.

Ms Kelsbie said the group brought together the views of many to work towards a common goal that is in the best interests of the Manjimup-Pemberton community.

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