DoW policy criticised

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Clashes between government departments have emerged over Gindalbie Metals’ application to draw water from the Parmelia aquifer.

The Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) is calling on the Department of Water (DoW) to change its policy in a bid to prevent one user grabbing the majority of a groundwater allocation.

In a submission to the DoW, DAFWA director general Rob Delane criticised the lack of transparency in DoW policy.

Mr Delane raised concerns about the impacts of Gindalbie Metals’ application to draw the remaining 86 per cent of water allocations from the Mingenew sub-area of the Parmelia aquifer.

“The process to allocate water when it reaches more than 70 per cent is left to DoW’s discretion,” he said. “This leaves DoW exposed and creates confusion for water applicants and the community. We do not support this policy position.”

Mr Delane also criticised DoW’s first-in, first-served policy, which would allow a commercial user to exhaust the remaining allocations to an aquifer.

“To support industry development in irrigated agriculture, investors need to have certainty about water availability,” he said.

“The first-in, first-served approach does not support this and frustrates agricultural stakeholders.”

DoW is expected to review its first-in, first-served policy as part of the water reform agenda.

Mr Delane said inadequate community consultation had occurred for Karara’s application.

He said Karara’s application would have “little to no local benefits to the Mingenew community”.

Gindalbie Metals public affairs and investor relations manager Michael Weir said this claim was ill-informed.

“We have engaged more than 200 Mid West businesses so far in the development of Karara, including 14 from Mingenew,” he said.

“There are direct benefits flowing to Mingenew right now from the project.”

Mr Delane voiced landholders’ concerns about the impact on other users if Karara’s licence was granted.

“Several landholders have expressed concern about the potential impact on their water supplies from Karara Mining’s production bore field, located five kilometres south-west of the reserves,” he said.

“The key to determining potential impacts on growers is the location of the Urella fault and any connectivity to the Parmelia region.

“DAFWA recommends further hydrogeological work is required to establish if there is any connectivity between the reserves and the Parmelia formation.”

DoW Mid West regional manager Adam Maskew said the location of the Urella fault was confirmed by the Geological Survey of WA.

“Experts have confirmed that the location of the Urella fault is very accurate, due to the presence of bedrock outcrop and geomorphologic features, combined with geophysical information,” he said.

Mr Maskew ensured DoW allocations factored in future use of supplies.

“The department ensures that the environment and social uses of water are taken into account in its management,” he said.

The Arrowsmith Groundwater Allocation Plan sets out the criteria for groundwater allocations.

The DAFWA submission was tabled in Parliament last week after it was requested by WA Greens MLA Alison Xamon.

Her request for the Department of Environment and Conservation’s submission to be released was refused by WA Environment Minister Bill Marmion.

Mr Marmion said it would be tabled once the DoW had concluded its assessment.

The DoW is expected to meet the Mingenew community in April, before making a decision on the licence.

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