‘Questions to answer’ over fee increases

The New South Wales Government has “questions to answer” as it tries to force higher charges onto struggling farmers.

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The Murray Regional Strategy Group, representing farmers and communities in the Murray region of NSW, says it is extremely concerned about the latest attempts to place further impost on the state’s food and fibre producers.

The MRSG and other organisations have been critical of proposed fee increases that are being considered by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, with costs associated with some Murray-Darling Basin Authority charges recommended to rise by a massive 60 per cent.

However, the MDBA has defended its position, which was explained at a meeting between MRSG and MDBA representatives last week.

It says its charges relating to the MDBA running costs this year have actually decreased, however the NSW Treasury has decided to reduce its contribution to river operations and instead place a heavier cost burden on irrigators.

MRSG chairman Geoff Moar said his organisation appreciated the opportunity to discuss this controversial issue with MDBA executive director river management Andrew Reynolds and his colleagues.

“We are keen to work collaboratively with the MDBA to overcome some of the issues we continue to face in the NSW Murray region. The Basin Plan was built for the benefit of every Australian, but irrigated agriculture and the communities which rely on it for prosperity have suffered from its implementation.

“It would appear the New South Wales Government is continuing to ignore our plight by reducing its financial contribution to MDBA operations. The NSW Government will continue to isolate rural food producers from their city cousins while it pours money into city sports stadiums and a new office for the Department for Regional NSW in The Rocks – rather than out in the regions.  The NSW Government fails to appreciate the issues faced by hard-working farmers who are trying to make a living and an economic contribution to the state.

“Because of the reduced contribution from the NSW Government, food producers in our region are facing a 62 per cent increase in MDBA associated fees. This is unacceptable,” Mr Moar said.

He said the Murray Regional Strategy Group would continue working with governments and agencies on behalf of farmers and affected communities to try and fix anomalies in the Basin Plan.

“The plan has had significant adverse consequences on our region, many of them unintended. Governments need to acknowledge this fact and work with us on the solutions that we know exist.

“We can have a Basin Plan that protects the environment as well as our food producers and communities, but at the moment we need a stronger resolve to achieve this goal.

“We want to build a collaborative approach to water management. It should not be a commodity to be won or lost, but a resource where a triple bottom line is achieved. We are sure out city cousins would agree that the NSW Government is unfairly placing an impost on food producers,” Mr Moar said.

November 2, 2020

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