NICE SURPRISE: Theodore Water deputy chair Peter French says the State Government’s freeze on irrigation water prices is welcome news.
NICE SURPRISE: Theodore Water deputy chair Peter French says the State Government’s freeze on irrigation water prices is welcome news.

Unexpected relief for irrigators in the region

THE agricultural and irrigation sector has received some welcome news, with the Queensland Government putting a freeze on irrigation water prices over the next 12 months.

On May 5, Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the Palaszczuk government would freeze irrigation prices for a year and absorb dam safety costs as part of ongoing measures to support Queensland business and industry through the coronavirus crisis.

Theodore Water deputy chair Peter French said that while he didn't expect the announcement, he was pleased by it.

"It's been a very good result for irrigators," Mr French said.

"There's no price increases, the water prices are high enough as they are.

"This means we can move forward with more confidence knowing that some of the costs are being kept in check.

"Water prices have been on an ever increasing path for a long time so it's been very well received."

The 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.

Theodore Water Chairman Malcolm Finlayson said he was intrigued to see that the State Government will subsidise $42 million worth of dam safety upgrades across the state over the next four years.    "That's a cost that predominantly relates to the greater community than it does irrigators so having that excluded from the cost anyway going forward is the right outcome," Mr Finlayson said.    "Longer term I'd like to see these costs maintained into the future, not just a 12 month freeze.   "They've done some work to look at lazy overhead costs and unnecessary capital expenditure with the delivery of water and that's a good sign there starting to investigate those things."

Dr Lynham said the Queensland Government would invest $14.7 million, about $2300 per farmer, in 2020-21 to keep prices low for irrigators.

"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," Dr Lynham said.

"We need to keep our farmers in business for our food and fibre and to create jobs, just like other Queensland employers.

"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 Queensland Competition Authority recommended irrigation water prices for irrigators over the next four years from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2024.

The prices are to contribute towards the cost of supplying water to the state's 35 irrigation schemes supplying 6400 farmers from Mareeba in Far North Queensland, west to Cunnamulla and south to Yelarbon.

Dr Lynham said consultation with industry bodies had made clear irrigators' concerns around affordability and government had responded to those concerns.

"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 reassesses and decides on prices to apply from 2021-22."


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