PRICE CONCERNS: Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dale Last, Cane farmer Mark Mammino, Member for Bundaberg David Batt and Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett discuss irrigation prices.
PRICE CONCERNS: Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dale Last, Cane farmer Mark Mammino, Member for Bundaberg David Batt and Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett discuss irrigation prices. Geordi Offord

Irrigators concerned about the future of water prices

THE possible increase of irrigation prices is sounding alarm bells for many farmers across the Bundaberg region.

A review into prices is currently being undertaken by the Queensland Competition Authority into irrigation prices.

Cane farmer and Canegrowers Isis chairman Mark Mammino said he'd been involved with the price review for the past 15 years.

"It's the same challenge we have all the time, the government gives QCA a terms of reference and a majority of times those lead to a perceived outcome anyway of where the price is going to go,” he said.

"But this process has limited what they can look at which is disappointing because the terms of references are interpreted differently by QCA, irrigators and SunWater.

"The sugar industry underpins the irrigation scheme in the Bundaberg region, the price we're receiving is below the cost of production and with current water and electricity prices, to add another 20 per cent increase on water prices going forward is unsustainable.”

Yesterday, Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Mines Dale Last stopped in Bundaberg on his tour of irrigated areas in Queensland.

Mr Last said the tour comes on the back of the QCA's price review to hear the concerns of farmers.

"For this particular area around Bundaberg we're looking at $35 per mega litre increases which is really going to make life very, very difficult for our farmers who are already in the middle of a drought and on the back of low sugar prices as well,” he said.

"The water price review draft report will be out in August, we're certainly putting a lot of pressure on the government to have a look at the water price increases that they're predicting. "At the end of the day, if you have water, you have opportunities, water needs to be affordable for our farmers.”

Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Dr Anthony Lynham said the QCA would carefully consider costs of supply proposed by SunWater.

"The QCA is required to limit annual price increases similar to previous reviews and additionally, has been given the flexibility to recommend volumetric prices lower than the costs to supply the water,” he said.

"This has been done because this government values agriculture as a hugely important part of Queensland's economy, and we are committed to helping SunWater, Seqwater and the irrigation sector remain financially viable.

"I understand that the Queensland Competition Authority has invited submissions from stakeholders and held regional workshops with irrigation customers and I encourage all customers to stay involved in the review process.”



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