PGA water reform anger

30 Oct, 2002 10:00 PM
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ATTEMPTS to consult the public on water reform have sparked an angry backlash from the Pastoralists and Graziers Association - which have dubbed the process a farce.

PGA plans to increase pressure on the Federal Government to strip funds from the State until it recognises water property rights of farmers and is prepared to pay compensation for interference with resources.

The PGA re-ignited its campaign after an Issues Paper - addressing the reform of the Water Services Coordination Act - was released earlier this month by WA Environmental and Heritage Minister Judy Edwards.

PGA claimed the paper was as city-centric as the remainder of the WA Government's Water Symposium process, which was supposed to address water usage in the state.

"It does not address the increasingly vexed problem of commercial water use and that has been our concern from the start," PGA spokesman Geoff Gare said.

He said the symposium and the paper ignored the most important issues, which included allocation, pricing and building an infrastructure to compensate those effected by the loss of their water resource.

Mr Gare said PGA had renewed its push to secure outcomes for farmers through the National Farmers Federation at the upcoming November Coalition of Australian Government meeting.

He said together with NFF, the group had put pressure on the Federal government to force states to comply with its promise to provide compensation, or face funding cuts.

"States were given hundreds of millions of dollars under water reform agreements for complying," he said.

"There is still outstanding amounts due and we have put pressure on the Federal Government to ensure no further money is given over to states unless they compensate growers when rights are infringed upon."

Despite claims by Mrs Edwards that the process would "give stakeholders the opportunity to highlight issues", PGA believed that it was clear only city and environmental interests were being served.

"It deals more with how to conserve water rather than dealing with how it is allocated," Mr Gare said.

"They are making a joke of it and it is probably one of the most serious issues facing us - not just as a diminishing resources but how it effects those who depend on it for their livelihood."

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