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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 1290 asked in the Legislative Council on 30 October 2019 by Hon Robin Scott

Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on 30 October 2019

WATER DEFICIENCY DECLARATIONS — PASTORALISTS

1290. Hon ROBIN SCOTT to the Minister for Agriculture and Food:

I refer to the deepening crisis of water supply in regional Western Australia.

(1) Can a water deficiency declaration be made in respect of vast areas of pastoral land in regional WA?

(2) If yes to (1), what does it take for a minister to make a water deficiency declaration?

(3) If no to (1), is there any other process by which a pastoralist can access emergency water provided by the government?

(4) What approaches has the minister made to the federal government for assistance, and is she prepared to table those approaches in this chamber?

(5) Does the minister concede that funds from the federal government's Future Drought Fund are for research and development purposes and would not assist pastoralists who desperately need help now?

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN replied:

I thank the member for notice of the question.

(1) No. Water deficiency declaration arrangements in Western Australia relate specifically to the dryland agricultural region of the state and do not extend to pastoral areas. These arrangements have been agreed to by successive governments. When a water deficiency is declared in the agricultural region, the state will cart water to a central point within a 40-kilometre radius of the affected broadacre livestock farmers. Given the vast distances and comparative logistical challenges in the rangelands regions, the carting of emergency livestock drinking water is not practical or feasible in pastoral areas.

(2) Not applicable.

(3) The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation currently administers the national on-farm emergency water infrastructure rebate scheme, which is available to all commercial livestock farmers and pastoralists, providing 25 per cent of the cost of eligible on-farm water infrastructure, with a maximum available rebate of $25 000, to support improved animal welfare and business self-reliance in managing the challenges of a drying climate. The department has communicated with and provided application details to stakeholders, including grower groups, shires, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia and individual farm and pastoral businesses.

(4) I have written to Hon Michael McCormack, Hon David Littleproud and Hon Bridget McKenzie to outline the difficult seasonal conditions being experienced in Western Australia and our desire to access funding through the Future Drought Fund for large-scale projects that improve the resilience and drought preparedness of our farming systems. I table copies of those letters. The Minister for Water and I also raised the matter directly with Ministers McKenzie and Littleproud in Melbourne last week.

[See paper 3351.]

(5) The purpose of the fund is to help farmers and communities to become more prepared for, and resilient to, the effects of drought and to adapt to changing conditions. I understand the scope of the fund is broader than just research and development purposes and would include, for example, projects to restore native vegetation for water or soil regeneration.