Fairer go for food producers

A fairer distribution for the cost of water management in NSW has been sought by the peak advocacy group in the Murray Valley.

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The Murray Regional Strategy Group (MRSG) has made a submission in response to the latest draft report published in March  by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), the  pricing regulator for water and other essential services. MRSG made its second submission last week in response to IPART’s latest report on pricing of NSW bulk water charges, a review which IPART undertakes every four years.

MRSG Chair Geoff Moar said while the latest report from IPART was an improvement to the original there was still a long way to go in bridging the gap and understanding the pressures being faced by the region’s food and fibre producers.

“Under the first pricing proposal our irrigators were facing a 28 per cent increase in fees and charges, which are paid whether water is delivered or not. We are now looking at around a 10 per cent increase,” Mr Moar said.

He said even 10 per cent was out of reach for many of the region’s struggling food and fibre producers who are coming off the back of a 0, 3 and now 50 per cent allocation, and the increase was well above inflation.

“All we are asking for is a fair distribution of costs associated with water policy setting and water delivery. At the moment our irrigators are left paying for water policy implementation, while in reality they have little influence over policy decision making.

“In South Australia all water users, that is anyone who benefits from efficient water management, including people who use the river for recreational purposes such as skiing, fishing and swimming contribute to the costs of the Murray Darling Basin Plan and Authority, but in the NSW Murray that is left to irrigators.

“It is only fair that everyone contributes to the cost of implementing the Basin Plan and associated river costs; it was a plan driven from outside this region but we are left paying the price,” Mr Moar said.

MRSG is calling for a restructure for the recovery of water policy, delivery and operational costs to be undertaken in NSW. The current reliance on fixed fees and charges places a heavy burden on irrigators who are not the only beneficiaries of water management in NSW

They are also requesting increased collaboration between rural communities and government departments. He said by improving relationships and communication between policy setters, water operators/deliverers and all agencies involved in the management of water, steps can be taken to avoid the impost being worn by food and fibre producers and the communities who rely on them.

“Our representatives can be of great assistance to policy setters and water operators to identify opportunities to maximise efficiency, decrease costs and help avoid costly mistakes,” Mr Moar said.

April 19 2021