February 22, 2020
The Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils (WBBROC) has expressed concerns over proposed rises in irrigation water charges.
WBBROC is an umbrella body whose members include the South Burnett, Cherbourg, Gympie and North Burnett councils as well as Bundaberg and the Fraser Coast.
The organisation was commenting on the results of a recent review by the Queensland Competition Authority which recommended large increases in irrigation water prices.
For irrigators on the Barker-Barambah scheme, the proposed rises were up to 116 per cent in fixed access charges and up to 137 per cent for volumetric charges.
And in some schemes, irrigators would have to pay these steep increases regardless of any water being allocated.
WBBROC made several submissions to the QCA during the review, requesting the size and rate of any increases reflect the capacity of irrigators to pay.
Gympie mayor Mick Curran, who is chairman of WBBROC, said it was unreasonable to expect irrigators to pay increases of this size in a year when incomes had been severely impacted by drought.
He said the QCA has ignored WBBROC’s submissions seeking a gentle price path over time.
South Burnett mayor Keith Campbell added his support to Mayor Curran’s comments, saying the region was dependent on a vibrant irrigation sector and increases of this size significantly added to the pain of higher electricity prices and low farm incomes.
WBBROC has written to Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham outlining its frustration with the excessive price increases recommended.
The organisation said many of the increases were not within the capacity of irrigators, industries and regional communities to pay.
The WBBROC mayors also conveyed concerns from irrigators that there was a potential for even greater price increases in future, fearing the costs of making Paradise Dam safe would be passed on.
Cr Curran said Paradise Dam was one of the newest dams in Queensland. The fact that there were major issues in its initial construction was the responsibility of the Queensland Government. Therefore, the costs of making the dam safe, need to be borne by the State Government and not passed on to end-users.