Farmer, businessman and so-called Spud King Tony Galati and his brother Vincent Galati have been ordered to pay more than $10,000 for the excess use of allotted groundwater at their West Australian farm.
- The Galati brothers have pleaded guilty to overusing a water allotment by 180 million litres
- The amount is the equivalent to 90 Olympic-sized swimming pools
- The pair face a fine of $10,000 plus court expenses
Bunbury Magistrates Court today heard the pair were granted a 1 billion litre water allowance in 2019 to irrigate various crops including potatoes on their farm north of Bunbury.
But meter readings taken by officials from WA’s Department of Water Environmental Regulation on three occasions found the allotment had been exceeded by 180 million litres, or 18 per cent.
State solicitor Michael Olds said the overuse equated to 90 Olympic swimming pools of water.
Defence attorney for the Galati brothers, Peter Weeks, said the pair had left the supervision of water usage to a manager no longer employed by the Galati Group.
“What has happened here is the manager has not kept records,” Mr Weeks said.
“The consequential effect to the systemic failure between my client and the general manager has had a ripple effect going forward.”
Pandemic problems a factor
Mr Weeks said the growers, like other businesses, were grappling with the “unprecedented crisis” of staff shortages and other logistics impacting the supply chain.
He argued it “would have been to the detriment of West Australians at the shops” not to irrigate crops during the pandemic.
State solicitor Michael Olds said the Galatis had a “significant amount of water available to them to take” and that the excess use was “something to be considered as serious”.
Mr Olds said the Department of Water Environmental Regulation typically viewed taking an excess of just 10 per cent of water per allotment as “serious”.
Water a precious resource
Magistrate Joanne Andretich said the company had been served with breach notices and educational material in the past for similar offences and should have exercised “closer scrutiny” to ensure water was not being over extracted.
Magistrate Andretich said the health of water resources was not only critical to the Galatis’ business operations, but also to those “who live and work in the area”.
She said the industry “relied heavily on the honesty of its participants”.
“It’s [water] a precious resource that needs to be monitored carefully to ensure that it is available for all on an equitable basis,” Magistrate Andretich said.
“If the extraction is abused, then that impacts on all users.”
The pair was charged a total of $10,500 for the offences and a further $951.10c in court costs.