Callide MP Colin Boyce and Mundubbera fruit-grower Mark Trott at the Queensland Competition Authority's Irrigation Price Review 2020-24 information session in Monto on September 26.
Callide MP Colin Boyce and Mundubbera fruit-grower Mark Trott at the Queensland Competition Authority's Irrigation Price Review 2020-24 information session in Monto on September 26. Alex Treacy

'The patience of rural Queensland is just about worn out'

IRRIGATORS have hit out at the State Government's plan to move to a "cost reflective” pricing model for the supply of water, voicing their concerns at an information session in Monto today.

Moonford irrigator Paul Francis, chair of the Three Moon Creek Irrigator Advisory Committee, said it is a "common” view held by irrigators and farmers that the new pricing model does not take into account the benefits agriculture provides to Queensland's economy.

"We also need to consider that the impoundments themselves provide non-agricultural benefits to the community,” Mr Francis said.

"For instance, up at Cania Dam... there's fishing competitions there held every year that wouldn't be contributing to the local economy if it weren't for the dam.

"Also the tourism benefits: two caravan parks (are) located up at Cania Gorge and in both cases patrons have access to the dam and that is an added inducement for them to go to the area and contribute to the economy.

"I think in both cases there's an argument for the wider community to contribute to the running costs of the dam because the benefits are more widely spread than the agricultural sector.”

Chair of the Three Moon Creek Irrigator Advisory Committee Paul Francis at the Queensland Competition Authority's Irrigation Price Review 2020-24 information session in Monto on September 26.
Chair of the Three Moon Creek Irrigator Advisory Committee Paul Francis at the Queensland Competition Authority's Irrigation Price Review 2020-24 information session in Monto on September 26. Alex Treacy

Callide MP Colin Boyce agreed there was widespread anxiety throughout his electorate at the proposed changes.

"The patience of rural Queensland is just about worn out,” Mr Boyce said.

"We've seen Paradise Dam... we've seen reef legislation, tree-clearing guidelines, closure of rural birthing facilities, closure of agriculture colleges... it all has a detrimental effect.

"The flow-on effects from agriculture is positive for our economy.

"Agriculture produces food, creates jobs, mechanics fix tractors, people sell tractors, mechanics need hot pies and hot coffee in the morning before work, it's all related as a flow-on down the economic line.”

Mr Boyce also argued that, as dams within catchments along the Great Barrier Reef act as a "sediment trap”, preventing damaging run-off into the reef, the Queensland people should also pay their fair share.

He voiced a concern that there was a sense of "apathy” among irrigators that their submissions weren't being given weight, leading them to boycott the process.

Mundubbera fruit-grower Mark Trott said that the proposed water price increases are just another addition to irrigators' bottom lines.

"Individually maybe its not a huge cost, but combined it is,” he said.

In October of last year, the Queensland Competition Authority was directed by the State Government to recommend prices for the supply of water for irrigation services by Sunwater and Seqwater for the period July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2024.

The authority handed down its draft report on August 31.

The referral was to recommend "cost reflective” prices, although, as noted in the draft report, "they (cost reflective prices) still involve a subsidy from taxpayers, as the water businesses are neither earning a return on, nor recovering, the initial investment in the existing assets.”

The State Government has indicated annual increases will be capped at $2.38/ML of water access entitlement, plus CPI.

Submissions are open until November 4, with the authority to provide its final report to the State Government by January 31, 2020.

Proposed price changes

Three Moon Creek

River

Part A: Currently $32.43/ML, rising to $45.83 in 2023-24.

Part B: Currently $4.78/ML, rising to $6.33 in 2023-24.

Groundwater

Part A: Currently $23.58/ML, rising to $36.11 in 2023-24.

Part B: Currently $4.78/ML, rising to $6.33 in 2023-24.

Boyne River and Tarong

Part A: Currently $28.58/ML, remaining at $28.58 to 2023-24.

Part B: Currently $1.77/ML, rising to $1.94 in 2023-24.

Upper Burnett

Regulated section of the Nogo/Burnett River

Part A: Currently $30.58/ML, rising to $43.23 in 2023-24.

Part B: Currently $4.08/ML, rising to $4.62 in 2023-24.

John Goleby Weir

Part A: Currently $28.96/ML, rising to $42.02 in 2023-24.

Part B: Currently $4.08/ML, rising to $4.62 in 2023-24.

Callide

Callide and Kroombit Creek / Benefited Groundwater Area

Part A: Currently $18.50/ML, rising to $30.53 in 2023-24.

Part B: Currently $8.84/ML, falling to $8.12 in 2023-24.