Govt ‘backflip’ on water

Jackson Lavell-Lee and Cally DupeBusselton Dunsborough Times

The State Government has scrapped plans to slug farmers with water licence fees after industry baulked at the cost recovery proposal.

Last year, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation announced plans to charge water users the full cost of “assessing water licences”, which it estimated costs the Government $15 million a year.

If approved, farmers would have faced similar payments to fees put in place last May for the mining and public water sectors, costing between $200 and $8928.

Water Minister David Kelly said the Government had listened to the community and decided not to extend licence fees to the agriculture sector.

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A total of 176 submissions were received during the State’s 14-week consultation period, with 256 people attending workshops across WA.

Last October, representatives from the South West agriculture and wine industry met with shadow water minister Dr David Honey and Vasse MLA Libby Mettam in Busselton to air their concerns about the cost recovery measure. Ms Mettam said she welcomed the “backflip” as many growers had approached her with concerns regarding

the fees.

“The proposed water licensing fees would have left WA farmers in an impossible position, unable to make a profit,” she said.

Marybrook farmer Vaughan Carter said the decision was a “good win” for farmers, who already had many operating costs.

“We run bores and have dams and we do all the metering and reporting as well. To slug us with this fee on top of providing all the infrastructure ourselves was a bit rich,” he said.

VegetablesWA led a horticultural campaign against the cuts, joining forces to create a submission with Pomewest, WA Citrus, WA Potatoes and Wines of WA.

Chief executive John Shannon said the average vegetable grower made just a 4 per cent return on capital a year and could not afford more fees.

“This announcement will have a very real impact for growers, who won’t have these costs thrust on them by the Government,” he said. “Consultation around WA showed growers were unanimously unhappy at the prospect of paying licence fees for a service which is not very well regarded.”

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