As the New Year begins, so too does the newly re-elected State Government’s agenda. The government can make a timely and productive start to the new term’s agenda and start delivering for Queensland farmers by addressing the following.
The siting of large-scale solar facilities on prime agricultural land continues to be a hot button issue, more than 12 months after QFF called for a Solar Planning Code. In the interim, QFF has been working with government and the Clean Energy Council to develop a Solar Planning Guideline to direct project proponents away from siting facilities on prime agricultural land. The guideline was due to be completed in November 2017 and must now be finalised as a matter of urgency, particularly when the actual amount of solar power and number of projects in the broader pipeline are not transparent.
The election also stalled stage 3 of the local management arrangements (LMA) for SunWater and SEQWater channel irrigation schemes. The somewhat protracted process of transferring ownership of these schemes to local irrigation boards must be kick-started again, so those districts wanting to move to local control can do so.
An early election commitment could be delivered by quickly completing the work needed to determine the exact cost of removing stamp duty on agricultural insurance products so it can be included in the 2018 State Budget. The nominal amount of revenue forgone will increase the affordability of agricultural insurance and assist with maturing the market, and potentially lower the overall cost of post natural disaster assistance for government.
Preliminary work conducted with QFF on a suite of suitable tariffs to replace the agricultural-specific tariffs (T62, 65 and 66) that will not be available after July 1, 2020 must also be quickly progressed. Over 60 per cent of the state’s 17,400 customers on these obsolete tariffs will either see cost increases or be no better off, so viable options must be found.