Water rights Bill is in PGA sights

29 Aug, 2001 10:00 PM

AMENDMENTS to water rights legislation have triggered concerns farmers may be exposed to Native Title claims and additional costs.

PGA spokesperson Geoff Gare said these "very real" concerns would be the main topic of PGA's upcoming agricultural conference to be held at Mt Barker, Monday and Tuesday, September 10, 11.

Water and Rivers Commission strategic projects manager Rod Banyard said the new arrangements gave licensed water users the right to transfer part or all of their water supply, where previous leasing arrangements meant water use was not transferable.

He said this encouraged users to be more efficient and gave them a salable asset.

But PGA spokesperson Geoff Gare said licensed water use did not prevent the government allocating as much as 30pc of a licensee's water supply to environmental and community use.

He said the PGA also feared new arrangements may exposure growers to Native Title claims, under provisions in the 1993 Future Titles Act.

Under the Act if a property title is transferred it becomes open to Native Title claim.

This raises questions over whether transfer of water title licenses could expose new title-holders to similar claims, according to Mr Gare.

He said the terms of the amendments were too "loosely defined", which threatened to strip growers of their valuable water assets.

"This represents just another imposition on the grower," he said.

"There seems to be a growing assumption that the land-owner should bear the cost of benefits to the community without any compensation.

"We are fighting that to the hilt," he said.

Voicing their concerns at the conference will be independent mining industry and indigenous affairs consultant Dr Stephen Davis, Greens MLC Dee Margetts and primary producer David Wren, Karridale, among others.

In addition to water rights, profiting in the wool, grain and meat industries will also be discussed.

Speaking in this section of the conference are Woolgrower Advisory Group chairman David Webster, WA Woolgrowers chairman Digby Stretch, Grain Handlers managing partner John Orr, Fletcher International managing director Roger Fletcher, and EG Green CEO Gary Milton.

Guests are invited to attend a pre-conference Native Title workshop, and tour of Fletcher's abattoir at no cost on Monday, September 10.

PGA president Barry Court will officially open the conference on Tuesday, September 11, followed by an address by Agriculture Minister Kim Chance.

Anyone wishing to attend the conference or for further information contact the PGA office on 9479 4599.


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