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Proposed price hikes will hurt farmers

Murray Irrigation describes proposed 2021-22 fee increases of 28 percent in government charges in one year, as ‘unfair and unaffordable’ in its latest submission to an Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) review.

Philip Endley, Chief Executive Officer, said the proposed price increases were deeply concerning and that any increase should be justified with fairness and the ability to pay.

“The extent of the fee increases is excessive when you compare it to the hardships faced by our farming families over many years, and long-term trends of water yield versus general security entitlements.

“A farm business with 600WEs using 300ML of water would see an overall additional cost around $1,440, which is profound under the current economic and environmental climate,” he said.

The proposed fee increases are attributed to the Water Administration Ministerial Corporation (WAMC), WaterNSW, and pass-through charges from WaterNSW for Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA).

The greatest proportion of the increase is attributed to MDBA operational costs for Murray River operations, which includes operating Hume and Dartmouth Dams, Yarrawonga weir and the other regulating structures along the Murray.

IPART is the independent regulator that determines the maximum prices that can be charged for certain retail energy, water and transport services in New South Wales. These agencies can submit a proposed pricing structure to IPART every four years for review.

“The role of IPART is to scrutinise the proposed fees and determine if they are reasonable and, if accepted, they become part of the fees we are required to pass on to our irrigator customers,” Phil explained.

“Murray Irrigation has invested a lot of time and effort into its submission to IPART, and as a manager of a large body of infrastructure, can offer more cost-effective and valid solutions for them to consider.

“We have also raised the principle of ‘beneficiary pays’. This recognises that there are others, apart from irrigators, that benefit from a regulated river system. This includes benefits to the broader community and environment, hence the costs need to be shared more evenly,” Philip concluded.