‘Why there must be a Public Environmental Review by the Environmental Protection Authority’ (2 February 2019)

THE SOUTHERN FORESTS IRRIGATION SCHEME WILL HAVE MAJOR DAMAGING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS IN THE FORESTED CATCHMENT OF ONE OF THE FEW REMAINING FRESHWATER RIVERS IN SOUTH WESTERN AUSTRALIA: The Proposed Scheme comprises: 1. Donnelly River Offtake (DRO) in the vicinity of the confluence with Record Brook. DRO comprises concrete weir, pump station, access road and overhead power line. Weir up to 4 m high, creating an inundation pool up to 7 ha over a 2.2 km stretch of Donnelly River. 2. Average of approximately 9 GL/yr winter flows pumped from Donnelly River. 3. Storage dam on Record Brook (Record Brook Dam; RBD), a forested tributary of the Donnelly River, with an earthen rock dam approximately 30 m high, creating an approximately 15 GL capacity reservoir over 160 ha of to be logged State Forest. 4. Buffer storage dams at Graphite Rd and Middlesex (60 ML and 45 ML capacity). 5. Approximately 250 km of irrigation pipelines, buried underground, with clearing of approximately 215 ha. These damaging environmental impacts by a private commercial venture are unnecessary because there is abundant self-supply water on cleared farm land in Manjimup and Pemberton for growth in food production.

THERE HAS BEEN NO PRIOR OPPORTUNITY FOR CONSULTATION WITH STAKEHOLDERS, THIS MUST BE A PUBLIC ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW: The current ‘Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan’ (2012) states at page 31 'Consideration of future large scale irrigation schemes is beyond the scope of this allocation plan.' The Rights in Water and Irrigation Act (1914) at 26GZG provides for amendment to an allocation plan following consideration of written submissions from stakeholders. With the introduction of the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, counter to the allocation plan, no opportunity for submissions has been provided by the Minister for Water pursuant to the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act (1914). The current water allocation plan provides for an allocation from Record Brook of 0.5 GL for public water supply, not a 15 GL dam for a private commercial irrigation scheme. A ‘Public Environmental Review’ is now vital to enable overdue opportunity for written submissions from the public.

THE EPA MUST PUBLICLY REVIEW THIS PROPOSAL IN THE CONTEXT OF FAILURE OF SUCCESSIVE MINISTERS FOR WATER TO DEVELOP STATUTORY WATER ALLOCATION PLANS IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA: The consultative provisions in the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 have been ignored by successive State Governments since they were enacted in 2000, and the State Government has not appointed a Water Resources Council provided for in 2007 amendments to the Water Agencies (Powers) Act (1984). The effect of unlawfully ignoring this statutory framework is to deny formal consultation with stakeholders at peak and local level. It is active denial of procedural fairness through maladministration of legislation. Because of this unlawful maladministration of legislation, none of the water allocation plans in Western Australia are statutory plans; not for the Ord River, Gnangara/Perth, Harvey, Margaret River/Whicher, Myalup, Collie, Carnarvon, nowhere! This unlawful neglect of statutory duties must not be repeated at the Donnelly River.

ACTION: Please take action now to protect your rights as a self-supply water user:

Hon Dave J Kelly BA MLA
Minister for Water
8th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street, WEST PERTH WA 6005

Dear Minister


I am a ‘self-supply’ water user producing food in the Shire of Manjimup and write to express strong opposition to limits on rights to access water imposed by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation publicised on 20 December 2017. By policy decisions, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (‘the Department’) has stopped issuing of new water licences in the catchment of the Donnelly River and stopped issuing water licences in vital sub-catchments in the Warren and Donnelly River Catchments where land is zoned ‘Priority Agriculture’.

Minister, these unfair and unreasonable limits on food producers to the exercise of rights to water under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act (1914) have an immediate negative impact on plans for food production and the value of land used for food production. These changes were introduced without consultation with stakeholders, including the Warren Donnelly Water Advisory Committee. The radical changes appear to be crude coercion of food producers into the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, rather than self-supply from their own dams. Indeed, the Department states in advertisements the stopping of new water licences in the catchment of the Donnelly River is because of the 15 gigalitre capacity dam sought by the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme. The Scheme proponents began water sales on 8 January 2018; however, no water from the Scheme will be delivered until after June 2021.

It is unacceptable that the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme impinges on the rights to water of self-supply water users producing food. The ‘Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan’ (2012) was primarily pitched at the interests of 484 self-supply water licence holders with a total water allocation of 33 gigalitres. These water licence holders constructed their own dams without subsidy from State or Federal Governments and have used the water efficiently for food production in what has become known as the ‘Food Bowl of the South West’. It should be noted that the amount of water held in private dams is generally less than the increased flow in streams that resulted from clearing of forest for agriculture many decades ago. Thus, there is no net negative impact of self-supply water users on environmental water in major streams and rivers.

In considering the relative rights of self-supply water users compared to the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, the Scheme is receiving $19 million subsidy from the State Government and a possible $40 million from the Federal Government, and the 10 gigalitres of Scheme water will be sourced directly from environmental water in the Donnelly River and the forested Record Brook. The 15 gigalitre dam planned for the Scheme will require clearing of 150 hectares of State Forest; whereas self-supply water users generally cannot clear vegetation for dams on their properties.

Minister, self-supply water users must be fairly treated if the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme proceeds. It is unreasonable to deny water rights to self-supply water user food producers to anti-competitively favour a Government subsidised irrigation Scheme. Please direct the Department to remove the unreasonable limits on rights to water in the Warren and Donnelly River Catchments introduced in late 2017. I await your reply.

Yours sincerely

Sponsored by ‘Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners’: an association of participants in agricultural sectors in the Manjimup and Pemberton area using water from the Warren and Donnelly River catchments captured in private dams. Our ‘self-supply’ water user group convened in March 2007 to respond to water reforms proposed by the previous State Labor Government; the initial challenge was responding to harsh water licence fees which were defeated in State Parliament in November 2007 and April 2008. Subsequently, in 2009 Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners again successfully responded when the Barnett coalition Government attempted to introduce costly water resource management charges as a 'water tax grab'. See Past Campaigns by 'MPL'.

Policy Position Statement on Water Allocations by Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners: Please download and read:

Note the current Department of Water 'Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan (2012)' states at page 31 'Consideration of future large scale irrigation schemes is beyond the scope of this allocation plan.'. Thus the State Government's current water allocation plan makes no provision for water for the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme. Despite this, the State Government has ignored the allocation plan and shut down fourteen vital sub-catchments for new farm dams, to favour the Irrigation Scheme.

Contact: Email:   Phone: 97724098