Australia’s salad bowl is under threat from hasty planning decisions and historic under-investment in water assets and management.
Fair and equitable access to water is critical to the success of the Queensland horticulture industry and we do not underestimate the complexity of the water planning process to address this issue.
For that reason, we are calling on Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy Anthony Lynham to extend the deadline for comments on the draft Moreton water plan amendment to ensure that irrigators in the Central Lockyer scheme can provide accurate data and more detailed information about the negative impact the plan could have on their access to water and their property values.
Irrigators are very concerned about how water can be allocated based purely on a record of use without having significant negative impacts and community upheaval.
Given the poor quality of metering in the scheme some growers on neighbouring blocks can have vastly different water allocations which could significantly reduce the value of one enterprise compared with another.
Many irrigators are questioning their ability to continue farming based on the proposed long-term entitlements published in the plan.
They also face significant water price increases as result of the recently announced review to be conducted by the Queensland Competition Authority. Water supply facilities in the Central Lockyer have a poor performance record in supply water for surface and groundwater take. Paying high prices for poor water supply liability is an added burden for growers.
The changes proposed in the draft plan will jeopardise the viability of the Lockyer Valley which is arguably Australia’s most important vegetable production area.
We call on the Minister to provide time for all growers to document the problems they may face if the draft plan and high water prices are implemented. We are aware that many growers may not feel they have adequate understanding of the issues to prepare an adequate submission. The Minister’s Department must closely monitor the situation to address these concerns.
In the longer term, we are seeking investment in reliable water for the Lockyer Valley as it would be a shame to waste the productive capacity of the seventh most fertile soil in the world.
We contend that the Queensland public will expect the Palaszczuk government to take a reasonable and measured approach that does not threaten the long-term viability of the Lockyer Valley as a production area and an important provider of local jobs.