Tapping into Margaret River water warning

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Councillors and community members are coming to grips with how to integrate the Margaret River with the town bearing its name.
Camera IconCouncillors and community members are coming to grips with how to integrate the Margaret River with the town bearing its name. Credit: Warren Hately

Some residents and long-term river users are on notice about proposed changes to access as well as drawing water from the Margaret River.

Councillors last week approved advertising of the Lower Margaret River Foreshore Action Plan, developed amid long-running concerns about the health of the iconic river and assertions from elected members that more needs to be done to protect it.

As well as measures to address erosion and damage from public access, the action plan would establish accepted “wildness” zones and put an end to water drawn from the river for private use.

Veteran councillor Ian Earl said residents affected by the plan needed to review the proposal and make submissions before the advertising period closed.

Users must “get off their backsides and make submissions about how they can hold on to their water supplies because there will be a fair bit of grief from them,” Cr Earl warned.

The action plan was developed for the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River by Nature Conservation Margaret River Region to manage growth and population pressures on the river “whilst protecting the important environmental and cultural values of the area”.

Water provisions as well as bicycle infrastructure between the town and the Rivermouth, along the Margaret River, dominated public submissions.

“The plan will provide significant guidance and direction for the Shire to better manage the river and associated foreshore areas,” the report said.

Shire president Pam Townshend said she hoped the community could see “what a tiny, precious river it is ... and we’re all going to have to work together to protect it from climate change”.

The plan identified threatened areas, mapped invasive weeds and recommended revegetation efforts as well as changes to public access.

Identification included five wildness zones where sites retained “excellent natural condition(s)” free from intrusion and human-made infrastructure along 3km of the river.

Access to those zones would be restricted under the new plan, and any fire control actions would refrain from disturbing the soil “wherever possible”.

Public feedback was “considered essential” because of the special category of wildness zones.

Also key were recommendations to remove all private water-harvesting equipment from Shire reserves, ending a long-running de facto process involving 24 pumps on the foreshore plus 14 pipes “which presumably have pumps located within private land”.

A review of water allocations showed most rights to draw water required Shire authorisation.

“The Shire does not have any records authorising the infrastructure for any of the domestic users or the sole commercial user,” the report said.

BREAKOUT

Consultation in developing the action plan was broad, with 11 stakeholder meetings and five site visits, but Cr Naomi Godden lamented what she saw as a shortfall in Aboriginal consultation.

“I’d like to voice my concern about the lack of Aboriginal voice and content in the report,” she said.

“Mob really need to be involved as early as possible.”

Cr Godden said Noongars had to be reimbursed for their involvement and their views honoured.

But Cr Earl said “The Aboriginal people must engage as well”.

The action plan was submitted to the South West Boojarah working party in late October, but no feedback was yet forthcoming.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails