For a second time, the Murray Regional Strategy Group has rallied to shred a bulk water charge proposed in NSW.
MRSG chair Geoff Moar said there was still a long way to go but at least the latest draft report on rural bulk water prices showed improvements.
“Under the first pricing proposal our irrigators were facing a 28 per cent increase in fees and charges, which are paid whether water is delivered or not,” Mr Moar said.
“We are now looking at around a 10 per cent increase.”
The MRSG submissions are being fielded by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which reviews the NSW bulk water charges every four years.
Mr Moar said even 10 per cent was out of reach for many struggling farmers who were coming off 0.3 and 50 per cent allocation seasons.
MRSG’s ultimate goal is to see a restructure of water costs in NSW, moving away from fixed fees and a heavy reliance on irrigators for funds.
“All we are asking for is a fair distribution of costs,” Mr Moar said.
“In South Australia all water users, that is anyone who benefits from efficient water management, including people who use the river for skiing, fishing and swimming, contribute to the costs of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and (Murray-Darling Basin) authority, but in NSW Murray that is left to irrigators.”
The latest report will take on board feedback and make a decision before the July 1, 2021 implementation of the new bulk water charges.
At the moment IPART still supports an increase in the bulk water charges, just not to the extent of the original 25 per cent.
WaterNSW has welcomed IPART’s current determination, saying it’s “pleased” the review understands WaterNSW’s expenditure needs to be higher.
“WaterNSW’s costs have been influenced by several factors, including increases in environmental expenditure, asset maintenance costs, vital technology upgrades, changes to cost shares arrangements and other factors relating to accounting and insurance,” WaterNSW said.
“It is essential that WaterNSW is sufficiently funded to effectively roll out the government’s metering policy.”
The above-mentioned non-urban water metering framework launched in 2018 but was delayed numerous times due to drought conditions and financial stress leaving many water users unable to install approved metering equipment in time for the WaterNSW-imposed deadlines.
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