February 12, 2020
Irrigators using the Barker-Barambah Water Supply Scheme could face a 48.5 per cent rise in Part A fixed charges over the next five years if the State Government accepts a recommendation from the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA).
However, irrigators using the Boyne River-Tarong Water Supply Scheme will see no increase in fixed charges over the same period, and just a 9 per cent rise in Part B consumption charges.
The new prices are outlined in the QCA’s rural irrigation price review for the period 2020-24, which was handed down on Monday.
The report is the first the QCA has conducted on irrigation pricing since 2012-13.
It provides two sets of prices for the State Government to consider – one with dam safety costs included and being passed on to farmers, and the other without.
The pricing recommendations have drawn sharp criticism from both the LNP and the Queensland Farmers Federation (QFF).
LNP Shadow Minister for Natural Resources Dale Last said the “irrigation rip-off” would result in scheme failures, job losses and economic decline.
“The Palaszczuk Government’s ‘cost-reflective’ pricing will effectively kill off a large number of irrigation schemes in regional Queensland,” Mr Last said.
“Last year the LNP warned the Palaszczuk Government the final report would deliver unsustainable price increases, but at the time Minister Lynham accused the LNP of scaremongering.
“Well, given the shocking price hikes delivered in the final report, Labor’s great water rip-off has been confirmed.
“We know that land without water is worthless. That is why it is so crazy to have a situation where Labor is willing to push water prices beyond the reach of farmers.
“If the water is there and farmers cannot afford it, there is something fundamentally wrong.”
Mr Last said the LNP had called on the State Government to reject any move to recover dam safety costs through the water price farmers pay.
“It is unsustainable to expect farmers to pay for community safety costs of public assets,” Mr Last said.
The QFF also expressed concerns over the QCA report.
“With some irrigation schemes facing significant cost increases and the inclusion of dam safety upgrades … without taking into account irrigators’ ability to pay, questions are raised regarding the long-term viability of some schemes and the productivity and profitability of Queensland farmers,” QFF president Allan Dingle said.
“There must be a concerted effort to implement measures that help the irrigation sector cope with the significant issues arising from these water security and pricing reforms.”
Mr Dingle said one of the major issues was the inclusion of dam safety upgrades in water pricing.
“It is our very strong position that dam safety costs are a community responsibility and should not be borne by irrigators,” he said.
The new irrigation pricing structure is due to come into force on July 1.