SunWater 'shifting the posts' on irrigation costs

SunWater irrigation prices criticised by Wide Bay and Burnett councils


On Farm
Revised SunWater irrigation prices could "significantly impact the viability of a large number of irrigators".

Revised SunWater irrigation prices could "significantly impact the viability of a large number of irrigators".

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SunWater is having 'two bites of the cherry'

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Councils have raised concerns about the lack of transparency in irrigation prices put forward by state utilities company SunWater.

Revised SunWater forecasts could mean bigger price hikes for Queensland irrigators who are already concerned about rising water costs.

Last month SunWater changed its cost forecasts in a submission to the Queensland Competition Authority, which is currently reviewing irrigation pricing.

A research note circulated among the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils summarised the effect of SunWater's revisions.

"SunWater have revised upwards their proposed water price increases to the QCA review currently underway and due for draft- release in August," the note read.

"The magnitude of these increases is substantially greater than the original proposal and could significantly impact the viability of a large number of irrigators across the region."

Gympie mayor Mick Curran, who is also the chair of the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils, said councils were concerned that forecasts were changed after the initial consultation period.

"This is not a transparent process and would seem to be a case of having 'two bites at the cherry'," he said.

This is not a transparent process and would seem to be a case of having 'two bites at the cherry'. - Gympie Mayor Mick Curran

Councils would also be impacted, Cr Curran said.

"Steep price increases will also have an effect on the budget bottom line of councils, as it will also mean that reticulated water for our townships will be more costly."

A SunWater spokeswoman said the forecasts had been updated based on the organisation's latest budget.

"As part of our commitment to transparency and due to ongoing review timeframes, we updated the forecast costs and provided a revised regulatory model to QCA on 17 June 2019," she said.

"QCA will examine the updated costs to ensure only those that are prudent and efficient are recovered from customers when they put forward their recommended irrigation prices for 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2024."

LNP resources spokesman Dale Last said SunWater needed to get its house in order and stop shifting the goalposts.

"I've been travelling up and down the coast talking with farmers about the potential for irrigation water price increases under the proposed 'cost reflective' model and there is real concern about what is proposed," he said.

"Farmers are already paying sky high water and electricity prices - further unsustainable increases will have devastating impacts on agricultural production in this state."

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