Parmelia aquifer row hots up

Claire TyrrellCountryman

Mingenew’s water saga is hotting up as a decision looms on Karara Mining’s application to draw from the Parmelia aquifer.

A decision is expected to be made on the licence next month, with the Office of the Appeals Convenor expected to report to the Water Minister within a fortnight.

Labor Water spokesman Fran Logan visited Mingenew last week to speak to farmers about their objection to Karara’s intention to pump water from the area.

Signs protesting against Karara on farms in Mingenew were a hot topic on Mr Logan’s agenda, after Mingenew Shire had ordered them removed.

Mr Logan accused Gindalbie Metals, the joint venture partner in the Karara project, of showing a lack of maturity by pressuring the shire to tell farmers to take their signs down.

“Gindalbie should just grow up, ” he said.

“This is a democracy. When there is an issue that is creating controversy, there is going to be a backlash.”

Gindalbie Metals corporate affairs and investor relations manager Michael Weir said he agreed with Mr Logan, but not with the way the protest was held. “We respect the right of people to have a say, but we think their right to do so should be done legally, ” he said.

In June, Mingenew Shire warned the farmers involved to remove the signs or face $50,000 fines for contravening the town planning scheme.

The initial deadline to remove the signs was early July, but was extended to early August 1 when it was pointed out that more notice was required.

Last week, the August deadline passed and the signs remained, because landholders involved lodged applications for planning consent to the shire.

Mingenew Shire chief executive Ian Fitzgerald said the farmers would not be penalised for the signs until a decision was made on the planning consent forms. “Because they have lodged the planning consent forms, we think it is a bit unfair to hit them with a fine, ” he said.

“Council will assess the consent forms at the next meeting, on August 17.”

Mingenew farmer Ben Cobley was one of the applicants for planning consent and has about a 12 signs on his property.

They have been up since October 2010 and their slogans include, ‘Gindalbie: Mingenew water stays here’ and ‘Potable water — not for rock washing’.

Concerned landholders are trying to have the signs approved on the grounds they are ‘advertising’ or ‘making an announcement’.

Mingenew Shire’s town planning scheme stated landholders must not erect signs unless they served such purposes.

Mr Cobley said he did not want the issue to be deflected from what he was protesting against.

“This is about us protesting against a mining company trying to take our fresh water, not about us, the shire or the signs, ” he said.

Karara Mining, a joint venture between Gindalbie Metals and Ansteel, applied for five gigalitres per annum from Mingenew’s Parmelia aquifer.

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