July 28, 2020
Farmers’ groups have welcomed Monday’s election commitment by Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington to reduce irrigation water prices if the LNP wins the upcoming State Election.
“A reliable water supply that farmers can afford to pay for is key to agricultural production,” AgForce Water Committee chair Kim Bremner said.
“AgForce’s ‘Stand With Regional Queensland’ State Election campaign is calling for better use of existing water supplies and reserves, including affordable water pricing arrangements to assist regional economic activity and employment.
“The promise by the LNP of reduced water prices of almost 20 per cent by mid-2021 through modernising the way Sunwater estimates asset renewal costs and recovery would go a long way towards easing the cost of water for farmers.”
Mr Bremner said AgForce had also been calling for funding for water infrastructure projects, including bringing forward capping and piping of bores in the Great Artesian Basin.
“The new 15-year Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan for the management and use of Great Artesian Basin water has been developed in collaboration with water users, and it is essential that agricultural water users continue to be strongly represented and consulted in its implementation,” he said.
“AgForce will be looking for the new Stakeholder Advisory Committee to have real influence on government direction on important issues such as further reducing livestock water distribution losses, securing the access of existing users while considering potential new users, and protecting dependent natural springs.”
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) Water and Energy Policy Committee chair Michael Murray welcomed the promised reduction in water prices but was more cautious about the LNP’s proposal to implement recommendations from the Queensland Competition Authority to reduce water costs by moving Sunwater to a regulated asset-based (RAB) approach for asset renewals.
Mr Murray said there must be economic viability behind any changes to water costs to ensure the sustainability and prosperity of agriculture in Queensland.
“While RAB costs have not yet been modelled, QFF is looking forward to exploring alternative pricing models and clarifying what long-term contribution any changes would make to affordable and sustainable rural water prices,” he said.
“Until that work is done, and we are fully aware of all the implications, we as a sector cannot commit to the RAB approach as our preferred approach, but it is pleasing to see the LNP’s proactive stance in this area.
“Regardless of this announcement, QFF is calling on all sides of politics to commit to ensuring Queensland irrigators are not paying above ‘lower-bound’ costs, while recognising there are some schemes where users are still a long way off from being able to afford this and must still be supported.”
- Related article: LNP Vows To Slash Irrigation Costs