Wine industry says jump in water fees puts sector at risk
The Margaret River wine industry is at risk of a steep jump in water licensing fees that it is feared could cripple some smaller vineyards.
Proposed State Government legislation would introduce mandatory relicensing fees for existing dams, and classification of the region’s water allocations as “high risk” means the fees could be at the sharp end of the spectrum.
In addition, vineyards must pay for the dam licences — many introduced more than a decade ago — which were previously free for applicants.
Vasse MLA Libby Mettam will host a forum for the region’s water users with shadow water minister David Honey in Busselton on Monday before taking the matter further.
“The WA Labor Government is proposing to impose water licence-renewal fees of up to $6668 for each dam in a regulated catchment, ”she said.
“New substantial fees will also apply to other water licences, bed and bank permits and land-clear- ing permits. South West Capes Water Users Group chairman and local viticulturist Bruce Pearse said the proposal was “unfair”.
“When the State Government proclaimed all the surface water catchments in WA around 11 years ago, all the dams in that catchment that could be licensed were,” he said.
“Now, guess what — we’re 10 years down the track and they want to bring this change .”
The fee would hit every winery, including those which have licensed dams only as an emergen- cy back-up. Some dams were not deemed to be directly connected to surface waterways, and were therefore exempt from the proposal.
However, Mr Pearse said there was inequity in the system.
“If you were a water user in the Ord River system, you’d be using 2000 times the water and paying less,” he said.
Margaret River Wine Association president Barry House urged vintners to attend Monday’s forum
Attendees should meet at St Mary’s Church hall in Busselton at 10.45am.