Licence agreement, years in the making

PLEASED: Ian Burnett, Andy Hawkins, Leon Clothier, Andrew Chapman, Trish Gretton, Ross Bate and Richard Hawkins.
PLEASED: Ian Burnett, Andy Hawkins, Leon Clothier, Andrew Chapman, Trish Gretton, Ross Bate and Richard Hawkins. Photo: Sharon Howard

AFTER years of negotiations, local landholders and AgForce have reached an agreement with SunWater to deliver more security and lower flood margin licence fees around Fairbairn Dam.

The landholders, whose properties were compulsorily acquired by SunWater when it built Fairbairn Dam in the '70s, had been locked in negotiations about increased rental prices and neglected contractual agreements.

For some landholders it had been a 15-year struggle.

Formal discussions were kicked off in 2007, when locals decided to join forces and founded the Fairbairn Dam Flood Margin Licensee group to negotiate with SunWater. AgForce soon joined the group in their discussions with SunWater and together they started the journey toward resolution.

The new agreement, discussed throughout 10 years of negotiations, outlines 30-year Fairbairn Dam flood margin licences for $1 rent a year.

AgForce CEO Charles Burke said the agreement was a positive result.

"The new agreement that has been hammered out between AgForce, SunWater and the Emerald landholders is a win-win that delivers more security and lower fees for primary producers, and clear land management outcomes and lower administration costs for SunWater,” he said.

"Emerald landholders were concerned with a proposal to increase fees and shorten the licence renewal period to 10 years.

"What was being proposed would have transferred many of the costs and liabilities onto the licensees, and offered limited security for infrastructure investments that farming families had made to sustainably manage the land.”

Fairbairn Dam Flood Margin Licensee group spokesperson Trish Gretton said the outcome was "well worth the effort for everyone involved”.

"We are very happy with the agreement. This has been a long process and we are particularly grateful to AgForce for their very valuable assistance in helping landholders negotiate and reach agreement with SunWater,” she said.

"The 30-year terms were extremely important as they give us long-term certainty and the confidence to make investments in fencing and other infrastructure necessary for our sustainable grazing operations.”

The terms agreed upon will now be used as a template for a further 300 primary producers across regional Queensland who use land next to 19 SunWater-owned water storages.

"It's a great achievement our little group and AgForce has been able to put in place, now the terms are fair for everyone,” Mrs Gretton said.

SunWater acting chief executive Colin Bendall said the agreement was a positive step towards working with stakeholders to achieve collaborative solutions.

"Through the good work of AgForce, SunWater is able to offer greater certainty to landowners who choose to make good use of the flood margin land for grazing purposes,” he said.

Topics:  agriculture fairbairn dam sunwater

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