THE Release of the Auditor General’s Public Sector Performance Report has justified WAFarmers’ stance on resisting the implementation of water resource management charges.
WAFarmers has opposed these changes from day one.
The proposal emanated from the flawed State Water Strategy that was developed following much criticism of irrigated agriculture yet with scant regard of the input of the agricultural sector as a whole.
WAFarmers first question when presented with the proposal was ‘show us the benefit’, which must be water resources security.
And we are still waiting.
Then there were major issues of equity, as only water license holders would be caught in the tax trap and farmers, as price takers, are unable to pass on the increased imposts.
Finally, there was no guarantee that revenue raised from the charge would be reinvested in the area that it was collected for – water management.
The Government’s track record in reinvesting specific taxes, such as roads, is hardly something to be proud of.
WAFarmers has lobbied hard and combined with other industry bodies to present a united front to the Government on this issue and will follow up this victory with a Rural and Regional Water Users Summit in December that will provide a strategic response to the State Water Strategy.
Given that one of the Auditor General’s major criticisms was the lack of community consultation, I trust that the Government will now open its ears to the needs of agricultural industries which have shown that in this case, a united voice makes a difference.
Despite the criticism of the Water and Rivers Commission, WAFarmers commends the Minister for the Environment on this commonsense decision to drop the proposal and urges her to ensure that the efforts of those agency staff that have been prepared to engage industry on contentious water issues are not penalised for their efforts.
Rather, they should be taken as a model for future consultation.
The industry, united, is please with this positive outcome but there are a number of other issues contained within the State Water Strategy that require attention and we will not let our focus on those issues falter.
– Andy McMillan
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