Farm­ers’ wa­ter cri­sis looms

Wanneroo Weekender - - News - Laura Pond

FARM­ERS in Cara­booda, Now­er­gup and Neer­abup say im­mi­nent wa­ter re­stric­tions are threat­en­ing their fu­ture in the re­gion.

Mark Za­gar, whose fam­ily-run poul­try farm has been op­er­at­ing in Now­er­gup since 1967, is a spokesman for the Cara­booda, Now­er­gup, Neer­abup Land Owner Group.

Mr Za­gar said the group was con­cerned about po­ten­tial cuts to ground wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion, flagged by the De­part­ment of Wa­ter (DoW).

He said at the an­nual meet­ing or­gan­ised by Veg­eta­bles WA last year, the DoW dis­trib­uted a doc­u­ment that stated ground­wa­ter ab­strac­tion would need to be re­duced by 25 per cent across Cara­booda, Now­er­gup and Neer­abup over the next decade.

“We were told we were a big part of the prob­lem,” he said. “Ob­vi­ously as a farmer that’s crit­i­cal to my busi­ness be­ing eco­nom­i­cally vi­able.”

Mr Za­gar said the group be­lieved the so­lu­tion was to re­alise plans in the WA Plan­ning Com­mis­sion’s 2007 The Fu­ture of East Wan­neroo doc­u­ment.

It des­ig­nated Cara­booda and part of Pin­jar as a pos­si­ble fu­ture hor­ti­cul­tural and agri­cul­tural precinct and to the west, east of Wan­neroo Road, in­di­cated a po­ten­tial ru­ral sub­di­vi­sion or land­scape pro­tec­tion area.

The precinct was pro­posed to be re­liant on re­cy­cled wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion, with in­ves­ti­ga­tions un­der­taken by the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Food (DAFWA) as to its fea­si­bil­ity.

The plan said it would “pro­vide a large, well-de­signed area that can adopt world’s best prac­tice to pro­vide cer­tainty for agri­cul­tural/hor­ti­cul­tural uses with se­cure lease­hold land and wa­ter use rights”.

Mr Za­gar said it was “ex­tremely frus­trat­ing” the plan had not been im­ple­mented. “The area needs to be re­zoned. It’s im­pos­si­ble to have agri­cul­ture with a 10 per cent cut in wa­ter let alone 25 per cent,” he said.

“Farm­ers would be able to do their jobs much bet­ter if it was a hor­ti­cul­ture only zone with­out con­flict­ing land uses.

“All farm­ers would love to have a new fu­ture-proof, hor­ti­cul­ture-only use precinct with wa­ter….to cre­ate the cap­i­tal needed to in­vest in new tech­niques.”

He said large pro­duc­ers and well known fam­i­lies such as the Tran­dos and Montes had al­ready moved far­ther north near Gin­gin to grow their busi­nesses but would con­sider re­turn­ing if the precinct was es­tab­lished.

DoW wa­ter assess­ment and al­lo­ca­tion di­rec­tor Su­san Wor­ley told the Week­ender the 2009 Gnan­gara ground­wa­ter areas al­lo­ca­tion plan showed al­lowances across the three lo­cal­i­ties was three gi­gal­itres more than what was con­sid­ered sus­tain­able and would be re­viewed to ad­dress the im­bal­ance.

She said when the plan was de­vel­oped aver­age an­nual rain­fall was 729mm but had since dropped to 649mm.

“Be­tween now and 2030 we ex­pect an aver­age of less than 700mm, with low rain­fall years oc­cur­ring more of­ten,” she said. “The risk of con­tin­u­ing the im­bal­ance be­tween wa­ter in and wa­ter out is that the rate of ground­wa­ter de­cline will con­tinue and ground­wa­ter will be harder to ac­cess.

“The De­part­ment of Wa­ter is cur­rently analysing the lat­est sci­en­tific data and tak­ing prac­ti­cal ad­vice from Gnan­gara ground­wa­ter users to work out where, when and how best we can re­duce our to­tal ground­wa­ter use.”

Ms Wor­ley said the de­tails of a “re­bal­anced” sys­tem would be de­vel­oped through the next ground­wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion plan, due for re­lease later this year. What the ma­jor par­ties say:

Ma­jor party rep­re­sen­ta­tives held sep­a­rate meet­ings with grow­ers in the area late last year.

Wan­neroo MLA Paul Miles said fol­low­ing the orig­i­nal meet­ing, he had es­tab­lished a work­ing group com­pris­ing farm­ers, Veg­eta­bles WA and De­part­ment of Wa­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives and led by the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Food.

His pre­ferred so­lu­tion is in line with the 2007 plan; he sup­ports a hor­ti­cul­tural and agri­cul­tural only area that could be ir­ri­gated us­ing out­flow from Alki­mos waste­water treat­ment plant that cur­rently emp­ties into the ocean.

“Let’s turn the pipe around and send it in­land,” he said. “There is one way to fix it and that is to use the wa­ter from the waste­water treat­ment plant and in­ject it into the aquifer for farm­ers to use.”

Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Mark Lewis said he could not com­ment on the work­ing group’s find­ings as they were re­ceived af­ter the State Gov­ern­ment’s elec­tion care­taker pe­riod be­gan but if re-elected, the Lib­eral Party would re­quest DAFWA lead a plan­ning process to “de­velop a mas­ter plan for the Cara­booda/Now­er­gup/Neer­abup agri­cul­tural area”.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Miles, the plan could be cre­ated within two years.

La­bor’s North Metropoli­tan Up­per House can­di­date Alan­nah MacTier­nan, who headed the 2007 doc­u­ment as then Plan­ning and In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter, said she was dis­ap­pointed “very lit­tle” had been im­ple­mented since (the party lost of­fice) in 2008.

“You don’t want to force your fruit and veg­eta­bles too far away from your city,” she said.

The La­bor Party of­fered a sim­i­lar prom­ise, com­mit­ting to form a ref­er­ence group com­pris­ing com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers within in its first term of gov­ern­ment if elected. ALP can­di­date for Wan­neroo and Now­er­gup res­i­dent Sabine Win­ton said they would de­velop an “in­formed so­lu­tion” based on stake­hold­ers’ in­put.

Pic­ture: Bruce Hunt

Farm­ers Chris Wad­dell, An­gelo Canzirri and Mark Za­gar fear for their fu­ture if wa­ter re­stric­tions kick in. www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d463624

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