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CAFNEC, as a member of the Community Reference Panel (CRP) for the Wet Tropics Water Resource Plan process, met with Minister Andrew Cripps at South Johnstone on the 18th April 2012 along with other community representatives.

This meeting was held by the new Minister for Natural Resources and Mines partly in response to a recent Land and Environment Court decision in favour of two irrigators in the Barron catchment against the Department where a Water Resource Plan was prepared almost 10 years ago. The meeting was also in response to the Wet Tropic’s Community Reference Panel’s concern about the fast-tracking of the process earlier in the year by the previous government.

These two issues made the Wet Tropics Water Resource Planning process a priority for the Minister who does not want to have to deal with similar litigation from water users in the Wet Tropics area once the Plan is finalised. CRP members were asked by the Minister about their experience of working within the water resource planning process to date and, in particular, whether members felt confident about the process and their role in it.

Wallaman Falls by Steven Nowakowski

Feedback from CRP members at the meeting included:

  • General agreement that CRP members wanted access to the final draft technical assessments with plenty of time and opportunity to discuss these both as a group and within their own stakeholder groups before the process progressed any further.
  • A number commented that they thought the involvement of a third party to facilitate the CRP meetings and process (Terrain NRM) had been a positive thing.
  • Irrigation representatives from the upper Herbert and upper Johnstone feel there has been inadequate consultation in relation to irrigation requirements, particularly for the dairy industry as relates to the policy for area-volume conversion of existing water licences.
  • Indigenous representatives requested feedback from the Department on the discussion paper provided by the Rainforest Aboriginal People’s Alliance via Terrain NRM.

The Minister agreed to take action in relation to all of these concerns and allow the CRP to meet after viewing all of the final draft technical assessments. When this process is completed over the next few months, the Draft Water Resource Plan will be released for public comment. CAFNEC will collaborate with other environment organisations to provide a submission to the Draft Plan.

By Sarah Hoyal, Coordinator