Water allocation plan needs review: Speirs

David Speirs, the Minister for Environment and Water, defended his comments regarding an independent review of the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan after being questioned in parliament on May 29.

Susan Close, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, repeatedly asked Mr Speirs what ‘alternative science’ he would be using to reconsider water allocations in the South East.

Dr Close’s questions were in response to an interview Mr Speirs had done with ABC North and West.

Mr Speirs replied that he was interested in researching a broad range of scientific theories about water allocation, because he was concerned about the economic impacts the current plan was having on the South East.

“We (the Liberal Party) feel that the process has had a very adverse effect on the economic output of farms and farmers in the South East region,” Mr Speirs said.

“We have said very clearly, in consultation with farmers in the South East, in discussions with the South East Natural Resources Management Board, that we need to take some time to step back from the decision, to find a way forward, where we can have confidence in the scientific approach, and to bring independent scientific advice to the table.”

Mr Speirs confirmed that he would be consulting experts from not only the government sector, but other public institutions. These experts would include hydrologists.

“I have taken the opportunity, not only since becoming the minister but during an extended period as shadow minister, to speak to people on the ground in the South East,” Mr Speirs continued.

“Independent scientific advice has been sought by farmers in the South East and presented to me, which was at odds with the science that was used to reach the water allocation plan reductions going forward.

“With that level of uncertainty in the mix, I didn’t feel that it would be responsible for the government of the day to move forward with water allocations that would have a direct economic impact, in a negative sense, on business production – farmers, grape growers, wine producers – in the South East.”

Mr Speirs added that he had the support of the Member for MacKillop (Nick McBride) and the Member for Mount Gambier (Troy Bell). 

He was also looking forward to working with new NRM board chair, Fiona Rasheed, as she was a farmer who understood the needs of the community.