Politicians battle it out over water security policy
AS THE Queensland State Election looms, both parties are making their pitch to voters about their plans for water security in regional Queensland.
The LNP’s plan is to slash water prices by almost 20 per cent per year from July 1, 2021, as well as beginning work on the ambitious New Bradfield Scheme.
Labor, on the other hand, is planning on building a number of dam and pipeline projects as well as maintaining public ownership of the assets.
The Liberal plan
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington said the proposed 20 per cent reduction in water costs will help improve the state’s economy.
“I want Queensland to be Australia’s food bowl and cheaper water costs will be a
catalyst for that,” she said.
Ms Frecklington said the LNP will implement recommendations from the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) to reduce water costs by transitioning SunWater to a regulated asset-based (RAB) approach for financing asset renewals.
The RAB approach aims to recover costs from customers as incurred yearly rather than attempting to estimate the replacement cost of an asset at the end of its life.
By adopting the QCA’s recommendation to modernise the way SunWater calculates its asset renewal allowances, as has been done in other states, the LNP believes SunWater will be more efficient and adopt new technologies.
“SunWater currently services nearly 5000 irrigator customers throughout rural and regional Queensland by providing water for crops like fruit, vegetables, cane, cotton and grains,” Ms Frecklington said.
“The LNP understands water prices are already too high and without affordable water Queensland businesses and farms won’t be able to employ Queenslanders.
“Our dam building plan will create thousands of secure jobs, but we need to ensure those already using water to grow our job-creating crops can afford it.”
The LNP’s plan is to undertake projects like the New Bradfield Scheme, Nullinga Dam, Urannah Dam, Emu Swamp Dam, Rookwood Weir, raising Burdekin Falls Dam and fixing Paradise Dam.
LNP Shadow Minister for Natural Resources and Burdekin MP Dale Last said the plan would mean money in the pocket of farmers and more security for local jobs for rural and regional Queensland.
“The Palaszczuk Labor Government has no plan to provide the long-term structural reform farmers need to ensure they will have access to affordable water,” said Mr Last.
“The cost of water under the Palaszczuk Labor Government is hurting our farmers and costing all-important jobs in our regions.
“Under proposed water price increases slated for just after the election, there are farmers in line for price hikes of more than 48 per cent.
“The LNP will deliver huge savings so farmers can boost productivity and employ more Queenslanders
“Only an LNP Government will back our farmers, invest for growth and supercharge the regions.”
Natural resources minister Anthony Lynham has acknowledged that Queenslanders would like to see the New Bradfield Scheme explored.
“It was the Premier who first called for the Federal Government on 30 October last year to work with her Government on the Bradfield Scheme,” he said.
“Any Bradfield-style scheme starts with water storage in the north – and that’s underway.
“There’s three business cases underway into major water infrastructure in the north – into raising Burdekin Falls Dam, into Hells Gate Dam and Big Rocks Weir.
“And Urannah Dam has been declared a co-ordinated project to reduce red tape.”
Dr Lynham said dams are major projects that need to deliver value to the taxpayer.
He said Labor will consult with customers as per the QCA report and fears that the LNP may privatise state-owned assets.
“We are supporting our farmers in the face of the worldwide impacts of COVID-19,” Dr Lynham said.
“We are freezing irrigation prices for a year and absorbing dam safety costs.
“On average, irrigators will be roughly $400 a year better off this year compared to last year.”
The State Government has committed $848 million to water infrastructure across this state since 2017, creating more than 1600 jobs to regional Queensland.
Projects the Government has undertaken include:
- $176 million for Rookwood Weir
- $215 million for the Haughton Pipeline Duplication Project (Stage 1) in Townsville and sealing a $24 million deal for the next stage of assessment for the proposed Hells Gates Dam.
- a $16.5 million contribution to modernising an existing open channel irrigation scheme on the Atherton Tablelands.
- $13.6 million to kick start the new Emu Swamp Dam.
- $1 million feasibility study into a potential pipeline to link Warwick to Wivenhoe Dam.