Water reforms leave dry taste in Nyabing residents' mouths

29 Sep, 2011 08:00 AM
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Kent shire chief executive officer Peter Bentley was frustrated by the disconnect between local, State and Federal Governments on local water issues.
Kent shire chief executive officer Peter Bentley was frustrated by the disconnect between local, State and Federal Governments on local water issues.

THE recent release of the National Water Commission's report, The National Water Initiative - Securing Australia's Water Future 2011 Assessment, has touched a nerve with Nyabing residents.

Kent shire chief executive officer Peter Bentley said the report did very little to shore up country water supplies especially in a time when water declarations had been lifted because of scattered rainfall during the last few weeks.

Earlier in the year Farm Weekly spoke with Mr Bentley about Nyabing's water problems and what a limited standpipe flow and water storage capacity might mean for the small farming community.

Since then there had been no major moves forward according to Mr Bentley.

"Our situation with the State and Federal Government is in a stalemate position," he said.

"Until we start to get some warmer weather, see what kind of longevity the water in our local dams will give farmers and what happens when producers get onto the standpipe system again the shire is stuck in this position of being able to do almost nothing to help."

Since May the Kent shire applied for and received a number of grants from the Department of Water which allowed it to secure four 45,000 litre water tanks at critical water sites including the town standpipe in Nyabing, Nyabing's old government dam and an important Pingrup water supply.

"The hope is the tanks will take away the necessity for farmers' tankers to be on the standpipe because the tanks will fill overnight," Mr Bentley said.

But try as local government might, the national water initiative hadn't yet trickled down through to its level.

"The announcement of a water initiative is a step in the right direction but it doesn't have any real currency with local government at the moment," Mr Bentley said.

"It's something which has been talked about at a higher level and at the end of the day local government won't have any real affect on it until it puts its hand up and says it wants to raise an important issue."

Of the initiative's 12 recommendations Mr Bentley questioned the fourth which stated "all levels of government should strengthen community involvement in water planning and management, recognising the value of local knowledge and the importance of regional implementation, and review institutional arrangements and capacity to enable effective engagement at the local level."

"The problem is with the part of the recommendation which talks about engagement at a local level," he said.

"The engagement already happens at a local level.

"I can provide more information than government can poke a stick at but somebody has actually got to act on it.

"It's not enough to formulate a glossy brochure or report and say, this is what needs to be done.

"I have spoken with three neighbouring council's shires which are in the same predicament."

Mr Bentley said there was a disconnect between what shires like Kent did at a local level to make, save and maximise water but it didn't seem to go beyond the people he dealt with at the Water Department.

"I provide all the information to the Water Department and Department of Agriculture and Food but how that information flows from there to a Federal level is another issue entirely," he said.

WAFarmers also welcomed the release of the National Water Commission report and said it provided an opportunity for State and Federal Government to re-engage with water users by delivering an improved water management model.

But the organisation also highlighted farmers' concerns with the implementation of the initiative in WA which included the need for long-term security for water users.

WAFarmers water spokesman Steve Dilley said WAFarmers' support for the initiative was really on the basis of the delivery of water access certainty for farmers and sadly this was yet to occur.

"We particularly like recommendation four which points to the value of local knowledge and the need for more community involvement in water planning something that has been sadly lacking both here and in the Eastern States," Mr Dilley said.

"While water reform continues in WA it has been a slow process but I believe we are making progress working with the Water Department on some of these issues."

The report was released at a time when the dangers of poor water planning and management were also highlighted in the Mid West where farmers faced being locked out of water supplies by a large application for underground water by a mining company.

In a letter in last week's Farm Weekly, Mingenew farmer Ben Cobley said he was very disappointed in Water Minister Bill Marmion's stance on "gifting" five gigalitres of water from the Parmelia Aquifer to Karara Mining.

"Mr Marmion feebly states he has concerns about the water policy of the State and it should be reviewed" Mr Cobley said in his letter.

"Comically at the original meeting to discuss the proposal, the Department of Water had to be informed by locals about the existence of springs on the eastern side of the aquifer".

"This is the same department whose experts have overseen the severe water shortages in the south and south east of this State".

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READER COMMENTS

beatrice
4/04/2012 7:22:59 AM, on Farm Weekly

Water is the main source of life,this should be addressed https://www.google.com/

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