Diane Evers' February Update | The Greens (WA)

Diane Evers' February Update

Regional Communities Matter! Looking out for the rights of GM-Free farmers, protecting our Community Resource Centres from funding cuts, standing up for our forests and saying "Hands Off Point Peron!

By Hon Diane Evers, MLC for South-West
Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hello everyone!

I took a short break over Christmas to spend some time in Albany with my husband Tony and my four lovely adult kids. But as I don’t like to stop I was out and about speaking to constituents in the region as soon as the new year began! With Parliament on break till March I’ve been able to spend my time getting up to speed on some more complex issues and speaking to you in the electorate about the many happenings and concerns in our rural communities.

Short on time? Check out my summary video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfuf7jgDnpI

Electorate Issues:

Electorate issues are coming in thick and fast and I’m meeting and working with a number of dedicated people to: Save Goode beach and the Vancouver Wet Lands, oppose funding cuts to regional schools, investigate the Water for Food/Southern irrigation Project, look into and workshop concerns Alcoa clearing is spreading dieback, investigate the stocking of Wellington Dam with exotic fish species for recreational fishing, oppose the deforestation of the Dalyellup Tuart bush land, and more. A couple of recent actions include:

  • Seagrass wrack Port Geographe Busselton

I recently met with constituents and the Council over the regular build-up of sea grass wrack at Port Geographe Busselton. The wrack can reach up to 3 meters in height and at times creates a barrier to the beach. Concerns were raised around the difficulty and danger to access to the beach if someone was to fall while boating or paddling nearby. The council undertook a one-off project to rake much of it back enabling access to and from the water. The Department of Transport, the agency responsible for clearing the seagrass wrack in the area will only respond once the amount exceeds 60,000 cubic meters under its ‘Environmental Monitoring and Management Program (EMMP)’. This a significant amount given the high risk to people and animals at the recent levels of around 16,000 cubic meters. Fortunately an unexpected storm facilitated clearing a lot of the seagrass wrack away.

However, as the build up regularly occurs and after listening to resident’s concerns,  I have written to the Hon. Rita Saffioti MLA requesting the DoT review its EMMP and its responses so that the seagrass is not allowed to build up to such levels in the future.

  • Canal Rocks boat ramp

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions conducted a feasibility study resulting in a decision to close the Canal Rocks boat ramp due to ‘safety concerns’. I spoke to and received a number of letters from constituents that are concerned over this decision. The ramp has strong historical and cultural value to the community with a substantial number of users per day. Closing the boat ramp impacts the community significantly and increases the risk to life in an emergency situation if services are required to gain access elsewhere.

After listening to the community I have written to the Hon. Stephen Dawson MLC requesting that greater consideration is given to the concerns of the community and that all other options be explored for this important access point to remain open.

Save our Forests

One of my priorities for this term of Government is greater protection for our native forests. The WA Greens policy is to end further logging of native forests and woodlands, and that is the goal I am working towards, in diverse ways. One stepping point is to get the McGowan Government to enact its pre-election promise to ‘immediately conserve all High Conservation Value forests to provide protection for some of WA's most threatened wildlife including the forest black cockatoos, western ringtail possums, numbats and quokkas’. Over summer I reviewed more 100 South-West forests, ranging from the Swan region around Perth, the South-West region, and the Warren region towards the south coast, that were identified as ‘HCV’ by the Conservation Commission 2002. I am sorry to say that many of these, including those known to contain threatened animals and plants as well as patches of old growth are listed in the one-year and three-year harvest plans put out by Forest Products Commission and the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, respectively. My team and I have been working hard to collect signatures for a huge WA Forest Alliance petition that will be tabled in Parliament in March on this issue. Expect to hear more from us shortly on this issue and in the meantime, if you have questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  

GM contamination

One of my first acts as a Parliamentarian back in June ‒ tabling a petition organised by FOODwatch calling for compensation for WA farmers who experienced economic loss through GM crop contamination – bore fruit in December when the Standing Committee on Environment and Public Affairs, with the backing of the Agriculture Minister, agreed to inquire further into the issue. Over January, I put out the call far and wide for farmers to contribute their firsthand experiences and on the ground knowledge as evidence to the inquiry. One of the problems with the GM debate is that we don’t hear enough from farmers because of fear of repercussions, so it was one of proudest moments in early February to help get an item on the ABC’s Country Hour where we heard from a non-GM farmer about his fears and experiences. I really hope this important inquiry will provide useful answers and guidance and will be following it closely. 

CRC funding cut

In the September State Budget, the McGowan Government flagged it was planning a 40 per cent cut to Community Resource Centres from 2019-20 onward. This naturally has caused great concern in my South-West electorate where constituents rely heavily their local CRC’s for a broad range of services. No one is sure yet how such a cut, if it proceeds, will be implemented and whether just some CRC’s would experience cutbacks or if it will be across the board. The Regional Development Minister has announced a review to report by June 2018 and I am determined to make sure we don’t lose any services that sustain people and communities in my electorate, and beyond. For the past few months, I have been reaching out to each CRC in the South-West electorate for their thoughts and feedback and I will be taking this information back to raise with the Minister.

Shark hazards

My call for feedback on the Government’s personal deterrents received a big response from surfers and other ocean users who told me they really wanted a rebate for a deterrent they could use in surfing. There are two devices on the market now marketed at surfers (SharkShield’s Freedom+ Surf and SurfSafe’s Rpela), but the rebate won’t be extended to them until they have been independently verified as effective at deterring great white sharks. We were hoping the results of trials by Flinders University of both devices would be available in January but have heard that now it won’t be until March or April. Surfers have the option of going ahead with purchasing either device now, without the rebate or trial results, or taking other precautionary measures to manage their risk exposure. I strongly recommend all ocean users to regularly check for shark activity in their area at https://www.sharksmart.com.au/shark-activity, and also read up on higher and lower risk factors in the WA Department of Fisheries report, available online titled ‘A correlation study of the potential risk factors associated with white shark attacks in Western Australian waters’.     

Hands Off Point Peron

In January I attended a packed public meeting in Rockingham about the proposed Mangles Bay Inland Marina at precious Pt Peron. It was a shame no one from Government, apart from a LandCorp representative, attended because it was clear from the very large audience and mood that any government proceeding with this disastrous canal-style development proposal for the southern end of Cockburn Sound will face very strong community opposition. Although this was outside of my South-West electorate I attended as the WA Greens Marine spokesperson. Mangles Bay is an important, diverse fish nursery, including for King George whiting and blue swimmer crab, and maintaining its ecological health supports the Little Penguin colonies on Garden and Penguin islands, as well as fish stocks and water quality across the Sound. I will be working closely with WA Greens MLC colleagues Robin Chapple and Tim Clifford, who hold the Ports and Planning portfolios to ensure that all future development in Cockburn Sound prioritises the ecological health of this important WA water body.

In the next few weeks I’ll be visiting Margaret River including the farmers markets and the Wash for Waste event, attending some farmers forums and hosting Senator Jordon Steele-John in his visit to Albany and Denmark. Parliament will be kicking off again shortly and I’ll be focusing heavily on standing up for forests and small scale farming.

If you have any questions, issues or just want to say ‘Hi!” drop me a line at southwest.evers@mp.wa.gov.au  

Photo: Diane and Tony Evers celebrating the opening of Poornarti Aboriginal Art Gallery in Denmark. Nadia Adams