Dam crackdown leaves farmers high and dry

8th February 2007Up to 30 dams on Kangaroo Island, SA, farms could be deemed illegal for being built without approval from the Native Vegetation Council (NVC).

With drought seriously affecting Kangaroo Island’s water supply, residents are outraged that NVC and the Department of Environment and Heritage want the dams pulled down for allegedly breaching the Native Vegetation Act.

Parndana farmer, James Wandel, has already been prosecuted, dealt a hefty fine and ordered to cut his dam wall from 10 metres to just 2m.

Another three are in court facing a similar outcome.

What has the residents most upset, however, is a recent agreement between SA Water and Great Southern Plantations (GSP), to supply much-needed water to ease the pressure on Middle River.

SA Water is purchasing up to 300 megalitres of water from a GSP dam, originally built by a farmer, without approval.

Member for Finniss, Michael Pengilly, slammed the State Government for this inconsistency at the first parliamentary sitting on Tuesday.

“While SA Water is quite happy to take supplies from a dam, supposedly ‘illegally’ constructed many years ago, and now owned by a private company, the Rann Government is allowing precious water to be wasted by prosecuting another resident for inadvertently destroying native vegetation in the process of constructing a dam,” he said.

“Minister Holloway admitted that the agreement with GSP was only a ‘medium term measure’, hence, highlighting the severity of the Island’s scarce water supply.

“If the situation is so dire, why is this government now allowing thousands of litres of water in another dam to go to waste?”

Mr Pengilly said a second dam owner had been ordered to gradually reduce the water level of his dam, also a waste of precious water and resulting in his potato crop being left to go to seed.

Water Security Minister, Karlene Maywald says the recent greement between SA Water and GSP will not be impacted by NVC investigations, and the water will still be pumped, for use by local residents.

She says investigation into the dam, owned by but not constructed by Great Southern Plantations, has started but is not yet complete.

The investigation concerns the potential unauthorised clearance of native vegetation surrounding the dam.

SOURCE: Extract from report in the Stock Journal, SA, February 8

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