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Irrigators raise doubts on water price policies

The QCA’s Angus Macdonald.
The QCA’s Angus Macdonald.

THE Queensland Competition Authority was in Emerald on Tuesday for the third round of meetings across SunWater irrigation areas, detailing its investigations into potential water prices for the next five years.

A host of irrigators from the Nogoa-Mackenzie river system attended what could have been described as on occasion, a fairly testy affair.

QCA's Angus Macdonald explained how the Authority developed the draft prices, which he said would likely be the ones recommended to the State Government next April, and thus become the basis for new prices to be implemented on July 1, 2012 - marking the new financial year.

"We looked at all of SunWater's costs the best we could in the given time and then reduced those where we could," Mr Macdonald said.

"I'm going to try and show prices and do some water bill analysis; that way we can see how it actually affects your bill."

The QCA was brought in to provide an independent review of SunWater's prices for irrigators.

Mr Macdonald said no matter the findings, it was government policy that prices would not drop by extensive margins.

"For instance in the Burdekin they continue to pay $14 a megalitre when they know it only costs $4 a megalitre to supply," Mr Macdonald said.

The need for "high" fixed prices was widely questioned by irrigators at the meeting.

"It's not a fair split," Comet's Carl Morawitz said.

"What about when you have a flood? When you're under water you don't use much water do you?"

Mr Macdonald said Mr Morawitz had a strong case and encouraged him to put it to the QCA in writing.

He said feedback was still very much encouraged and all questions or queries would be addressed.

The QCA included a blanket 2.5% inflation increase into the pricing scheme, which was another issue some irrigators had a problem with.

"I wish I could just slap an extra 25% on my pricings," one landholder shouted.

Mr Macdonald said the QCA had managed to reduce SunWater's costs by $187,000 in the first year alone.


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