May 5, 2020
The State Government will freeze irrigation prices for a year – and absorb dam safety costs – as part of measures to support Queensland businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
“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,” Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said.
“We need to keep our farmers in business for our food and fibre and to create jobs, just like other Queensland employers.
“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.”
The State Government will:
- Absorb price increases in 2020-21 recommended by the Queensland Competition Authority
- Pass on any price decreases recommended by the Queensland Competition Authority
- Subsidise $42 million worth of dam safety upgrades across the State over the next four years rather than ask irrigators to contribute towards them
Dr Lynham said consultation with industry bodies had made clear irrigators’ concerns around affordability and government had responded.
“The freeze is a temporary relief measure, just as other Queensland businesses are receiving because of COVID-19,” he said.
“The government will monitor conditions over the next 12 months before it re-assesses and decides on prices to apply from 2021-22.”
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Queensland Farmers federation president Allan Dingle thanked the State Government for “finally listening to the concerns of farmers”.
“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.
“With clarity regarding the long-term viability of some schemes and positive benefits for the productivity and profitability of Queensland farm businesses, particularly in the Burdekin and Three Moon Creek, farmers can now continue producing high quality food, fibre and foliage.
“However, QFF is disappointed the announcement has maintained the long-standing 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.”
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The State Opposition said the announcement was more about the upcoming State Election than helping farmers in the long-term.
Shadow Minister for Natural Resources Dale Last said farmers were already paying too much for water and needed a long-term solution to give them a viable and secure future.
“This announcement fails to address the larger structural issues that affect water pricing in Queensland,” he said.
“Farmers are already paying too much for water and kicking the issue into the long grass will only continue the pain for another year.
“It’s clear that Annastacia Palaszczuk and her Water Minister are not listening to the concerns of irrigators.”
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