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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 1261 asked in the Legislative Council on 29 October 2019 by Hon Jacqui Boydell

Minister responding: Hon D.J. Kelly
Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on

DROUGHT — SOUTHERN RANGELANDS

1261. Hon JACQUI BOYDELL to the minister representing the Minister for Water:

I refer to the drought situation that many pastoralists, particularly in the southern rangelands, currently find themselves in.

(1) Has the minister engaged directly with pastoralists from the southern rangelands since January this year to discuss the severe water shortage; and, if yes, please provide details, including when, where and who with?

(2) Has the minister engaged directly with the relevant federal ministers to discuss drought or climate change since January this year; and, if yes, please provide details of when, where and who with?

(3) Does the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation have a plan to mitigate the effect of decreasing rainfall due to climate change specifically for areas such as the southern rangelands, which are typically drier than the rest of the state?

(4) If no to (1)–(3), when does the minister plan on taking action in conjunction with the relevant stakeholders considering that people are suffering now?

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN replied:

I thank the member for the question.

I seek leave to have the response incorporated into Hansard.

Leave granted.

The following material was incorporated —

(1)–(4) The Minister for Water has written to the Commonwealth Government regarding drought funding in December 2018 and June 2019. A third letter to the Commonwealth Government agreeing to implement the On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme in Western Australia was sent in April 2019. The Minister for Water specifically attended the Agriculture Ministers' Forum held in Melbourne on 25 October 2019 to discuss Western Australia's situation. The Forum was also attended by the Hon. Bridget McKenzie Federal Minister for Agriculture and the Hon. David Littleproud Federal Minister for Water Resources and Drought.

It should be noted that the two Federal Ministers have recently visited Western Australia, neither advised the Minister for Water of their visits and neither sought a meeting with the Minister for Water.

The question correctly identifies that decreasing rainfall in areas such as the Southern Rangelands can be attributed to climate change. Declining rainfall due to climate change was identified at the recent Agricultural Ministers Forum as being a direct threat to agricultural production. An effective response to climate change requires leadership at the national level which is widely seen as being lacking from the current Federal Government and the relevant ministers in particular.

The State Government has recently released a Climate Change Issues Paper, with public comment open until 29 November 2019. The State Government has committed to releasing a Climate Policy in 2020.

At a state level, groundwater in the inland Gascoyne, Murchison and Goldfields regions is mainly sourced from fractured rock, alluvium, calcrete and palaeochannel deposits, which have variable water quality and yields. Since 2014, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation has completed an airborne electromagnetic survey over approximately 52 000 square kilometres of palaeochannels in the Murchison region. The survey results have been used to identify the distribution of groundwater across the palaeochannel system, which confirmed that fresher groundwater supplies are generally in the northern part of the Murchison. This information is publicly available and may be used by pastoralists to develop water sources.

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 for 25 per cent of the cost of eligible on-farm water infrastructure ($25 000 maximum rebate available), 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.