For­rest’s Min­deroo Group aquifer plans re­jected

North West Telegraph - - Telegraph News - Tom Zaun­mayr and Jenne Bram­mer

Andrew For­rest’s Min­deroo Group is shap­ing up for a scrap with the Shire of Ash­bur­ton af­ter coun­cil­lors re­fused a con­struc­tion per­mit for a world­first ground­wa­ter re­plen­ish­ment project in­volv­ing the Ash­bur­ton River on Min­deroo Sta­tion.

Min­deroo Group sub­mit­ted an ap­pli­ca­tion to the De­part­ment of Plan­ning, Lands and Her­itage to build 10 up­side­down “leaky weirs” along the river in an ef­fort to boost ground­wa­ter recharge for ex­ist­ing agri­cul­tural use.

The Shire of Ash­bur­ton has re­jected the plan, cit­ing con­cerns, in­clud­ing the im­pact on Abo­rig­i­nal cul­ture and lack of in­for­ma­tion, and has vowed to de­fend its de­ci­sion should Min­deroo ap­peal.

Min­deroo head of in­vest­ment John Hart­man said his com­pany would ap­peal the Shire’s de­ci­sion.

Mr Hart­man said he was sur­prised the Shire had re­fused a con­struc­tion per­mit, given its plan­ning and tech­ni­cal of­fi­cers had in­di­cated sup­port.

“By recharg­ing the aquifers, that en­ables us to use bores for pas­toral ac­tiv­i­ties across the 240,000ha sta­tion,” he said.

“It en­ables us to im­prove drought mit­i­ga­tion on the prop­erty and pro­vide wa­ter to cat­tle year round.

“That also opens up other op­por­tu­ni­ties which could be a ben­e­fit, such as ir­ri­gated fod­der pro­duc­tion and ir­ri­gated hor­ti­cul­ture.” Mr Hart­man said most Shires would wel­come job-cre­at­ing in­dus­tries.

The sub­mis­sion in­di­cates po­ten­tial im­pact to one re­ported Abo­rig­i­nal her­itage place, the Ash­bur­ton River.

“We have on many oc­ca­sions over the past five years at­tempted to ex­plain the project to the tra­di­tional own­ers, but some of those re­spon­si­ble for man­age­ment of their in­ter­est have un­for­tu­nately not af­forded us the op­por­tu­nity to do that,” Mr Hart­man said.

Min­deroo has an ex­ist­ing indige­nous land-use agree­ment al­low­ing use of the land for agri­cul­tural pur­poses.

In a sub­mis­sion to the Shire, a Bu­ura­bal­ayji Tha­lanyji Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion spokesper­son said the Ash­bur­ton River was in­te­gral to cer­e­mo­nial ac­tiv­i­ties.

A BTAC spokesman said ap­prov­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion would be pre­ma­ture, given the Abo­rig­i­nal Cul­tural Her­itage Com­mit­tee was propos­ing a review of the river’s sta­tus.

A Shire of Ash­bur­ton spokes­woman said the coun­cil found Min­deroo failed to pro­vide suf­fi­cient in­for­ma­tion on po­ten­tial im­pacts to re­cre­ation, tourism, flora and fauna, stream flows, sand mi­gra­tion, and down­stream wa­ter bod­ies.

BTAC chief ex­ec­u­tive Matthew Slack did not respond to re­quests for com­ment.

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