Irrigators spared water price hike, temporarily
IRRIGATORS won’t see a spike in water prices this year, with the State Government announcing a freeze to assist the industry.
Farmers have welcomed the move, but warned it is only a temporary solution.
Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the Government would freeze irrigation prices for a year and absorb dam safety costs.
“Our farmers are doing it tough as they deal with the fallout of long-running drought, bushfires, severe weather events, volatile markets and now, the impacts of COVID-19,” Dr Lynham said.
“The Government will invest $14.7 million – about $2300 per farmer – in 2020-21 to keep prices low for irrigators.
“In effect, the Government’s decision means that irrigators will, on average, be roughly $400 a year better off in 2020-21 than this year.”
Lockyer Water Users spokesman Gordon Van der Est said the decision was the right move but warned it didn’t fix underlying issues with irrigation pricing in the region.
“It’s welcomed and it’s appreciated but it’s also temporary,” he said.
“It doesn’t address the fundamental error.
“This potentially delays the introduction of Part A fixed charges for 12 months to Central Lockyer Dams, however it does nothing to assist or resolve the financial pain of Part A charges for the Lower Lockyer irrigators on Atkinson Dam, now in their 3rd year of drought.”
Mr Van der Est said this was a concern.
“Come on Minister Lynham, you know the situation, Atkinson Dam still has not had inflows since your visit 3 years ago, time to make some good government policy that recognises dam performance in the water pricing equation for poor performing dam assets in Qld,” he said.
“What we asked for was a permanent solution that linked water pricing to dam performance.”
He said the proposal to supply water from Wivenhoe Dam to irrigation dams in the Lockyer Valley would be a permanent solution that irrigators would be pleased with.
Queensland Farmers’ Federation president Allan Dingle thanked the Government for finally listening to the concerns of farmers, but was disappointed there wasn’t a long-term solution.
“Some irrigation schemes were facing significant cost increases without taking into account irrigators’ ability to pay, while dam safety is a community responsibility and provides no additional benefit to farmers,” Mr Dingle said.
“However, QFF is disappointed the announcement has maintained the longstanding inequity that some irrigators continue to pay well above “lower-bound” costs, which is the level of pricing the Government has been aiming for.
“While the Government has heard and acted on our concerns, we expect them to continue consulting with industry over the next 12 months as they reassess and decide on prices to apply for 2021-22.”
Dr Lynham said the Government would monitor conditions in the next 12 months before deciding on prices for 2021-22.