Marmion calls for water policy review

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The Department of Water’s (DoW) controversial first-in, first-served water policy is set to be reviewed.

The policy has been attacked by farmers and the Department of Agriculture and Food during the assessment of Karara Mining’s application to draw five gigalitres a year from Mingenew’s Parmelia aquifer.

This week, WA Water Minister Bill Marmion said he did not believe the first-in, first-served policy promoted a monopoly approach to groundwater allocations.

“The policy does not encourage a monopoly approach, rather it has long been regarded as the fairest way to allocate water,” he said.

“However, I have asked for this policy be reviewed by the DoW as part of the water reform agenda.”

Opponents of the policy, WA Nationals MPs Grant Woodhams and Mia Davies, met Mr Marmion this month, hoping for a change in the policy ahead of any decision on whether to allocate Karara the remaining water allocation.

Mr Woodhams said the policy was fundamentally flawed.

“The policy is under increasing pressure,” he said.

“I don’t think it is working for us any more.”

Mr Woodhams asked Mr Marmion to push for more public input into the management of WA’s water resources.

“We need to open up water policy for public input,” he said.

“Water is always going to be an issue. I think it would be healthy for WA people to have a say on how their water is managed.”

Mr Woodhams said Mr Marmion acknowledged the first-in, first-served approach often conflicted with community interests.

He highlighted the Karara issue as an example.

“I don’t think it is healthy for us to have these debates with water users that want to take large amounts of water,” he said.

“I am challenging the policy — not Karara.”

DoW Mid West Gascoyne regional manager Adam Maskew said DoW was on track to decide on Karara’s licence in the near future.

“We are on track to finalise the decision, if not by the end of the June quarter then very soon after,” he said.

Mr Maskew said DoW was reviewing its water licensing policy as part of an ongoing review.

Member for the Agricultural Region, Mia Davies, said a review of the first-in, first-served policy should be a priority for the State Government.

“As water becomes more scarce and land use in the regions changes, we need a rigorous policy framework to ensure the resource is managed appropriately,” she said.

Ms Davies said she had spoken to Mingenew farmers about Karara’s water application.

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