The Cook Government is set to invest up to $15.3 million in key initiatives to improve water security throughout the Manijmup-Pemberton horticulture industry following the release of the Southern Forest Irrigation Reference Group report. 

In October 2022, the Southern Forest Irrigation Reference Group was appointed to provide advice on measures that could help deliver water security to the Manjimup-Pemberton horticulture industry. 

The committee, consisting of eight members, received briefing from Government agencies and had input from 20 growers and stakeholders across the region. 

The report that was released included 15 recommendations to the Cook Government that addressed water infrastructure, water use efficiency and sustainable water policies. In response to the recommendations made by the Southern Forest Irrigation Reference Group, the Cook Government has allocated more than $15 million to apply the recommendations, and will deliver projects that support individual growers to drought proof their business. 

The Cook Government will also co-fund projects that are underpinned by science that demonstrate an increase in water security, provide benefits to the broader community and consider the water needs of the environment. 

Western Australia Regional Development Minister, Don Punch, said “I would like to thank the Southern Forests Irrigation Reference Group for the work they have done with local stakeholders to seek views on practical solutions to address water security issues for horticulture growers in the Manjimup-Pemberton region. 

“The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) will work with local growers to deliver sustainable water management solutions for the region,” Mr Punch said. 

The Group found water security is best managed at the individual farm level and any government funding that is being used should be directed to activities such as increasing the capacity of existing dams and improving stream monitoring, rather than other large water infrastructure schemes. 

The State Government will work closely with the horticulture growers who are reliant on surface water to determine the most appropriate on-farm infrastructure to improve water efficiency and productivity. 

State Minister for Water, Simone McGurk, said that the government is committed to delivering updated and improved water planning, which will support a strong and vibrant agricultural sector through water security and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

“The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation will investigate a number of options to improve stream monitoring and potential water carry over for on-stream farm dams,” Mr McGurk said. 

Two stream monitoring sites have already been reinstalled in the Bonnelly River catchment, with an expanded stream measurement monitoring system to be investigated as part of the new Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan. 

The Cook Government is also working alongside the CommonWealth Government on the potential to install a Doppler radar system in the Manjimup areas, providing growers with more detailed weather information. 

Research projects for long-term water measurement to improve water saving and efficiency will continue, as well as developing stronger understandings of climate change impacts on the region. 

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