WAITING FOR RAIN: Farmers have been busy irrigating their crops during the dry spell in the Bundaberg region. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail
WAITING FOR RAIN: Farmers have been busy irrigating their crops during the dry spell in the Bundaberg region. Photo: Mike Knott / NewsMail Mike Knott

Desperate plea to cut power prices

"WE ARE in danger of having dams and irrigation schemes full of water and no one able to afford to draw on them."

It's an ominous warning from an industry struggling to see a profitable future as the electricity bills mount up.

Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group spokesman Dale Holliss said the increase in electricity prices had severely impacted the costs faced by all Ergon customers, particularly those who use electricity in irrigated agriculture.

"We are now paying 93% more than we were in 2009 - the CPI increase over this period was 15.71% - for exactly the same service and level of reliability and safety," he said.

"The impact of Ergon's outrageous profits on regional Queensland has been, and continues to be, catastrophic.

"Recent statements from the State Government and Ergon to say that from now on prices will only increase by less than inflation show they just don't get it. We can't afford it now.

"Many irrigators have turned off their pumps and seen production plummet."

Calling for a 30% reduction, Mr Holliss said the decrease was essential.

Bundaberg Canegrowers chairman Allan Dingle said there were cane growers in the region looking at irrigation costs in excess of $500,000.

"The biggest grower in Bundaberg has a bill in excess of $1 million. They are some horrendous bills.

"There are other growers who are 18 months behind on their electricity bills and they don't want to irrigate this time because they fear getting more in debt."

But Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson said the State Government continued to support all customers in regional Queensland through the Uniform Tariff Policy and the new Queensland Productivity Commission's first task was an inquiry into electricity pricing, including the impact on agriculture.

"In a state as large and decentralised as Queensland, supplying electricity to regional and remote customers costs more than for metropolitan electricity customers. That's why the government uses the dividends to maintain the UTP," she said.



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