Moulamein landholder Jeremy Morton is not impressed that Murray unregulated river licence holders have endured an 800 per cent water price increase in the last 10 years.By Zoe McMaugh
Murray unregulated river licence holders have endured an 800 per cent water price increase in the last 10 years, which Moulamein landholder Jeremy Morton has described as ‘‘obscene’’.
Mr Morton has a 1580 megalitre licence for the ephemeral lake called Morton’s Lake.
Charged at $1 per megalitre 10 years ago, Mr Morton said licence holders were now subject to a minimum charge of $5.59/ML.
If the water is used, which Mr Morton said was only possible during an uncontrolled flood, a further charge of $2.39/ML applies.
He said it means his licence fee had increased from $1580 to $8832.20 per annum, regardless of whether he uses the water or not.
And he is fearful the charges will continue to rise significantly each year.
Mr Morton said he could see no logical reason for such a huge charge to landholders, labelling it as ‘‘simply revenue raising’’.
‘‘We’re only allowed to access the water when it is available, and the only time it is available is during an uncontrolled flood,’’ he said.
‘‘Since 1996 I have had access to that water twice, but only used a combined 500ML over that period.
‘‘There is a bizarre difference in access fees between the unregulated and regulated river licences ($5.59/ML and $1.44/ML respectively) — the total Murray regulated access is less than the unregulated, but regulated water needs to have maintained infrastructure like dams and weirs.
‘‘Regulated water delivery also needs someone to go out there and do it (make the water available), plus there’s the back office operations going on at the time which is covered in that cost.
‘‘There is no infrastructure required to do anything for unregulated access — it all happens naturally.
‘‘How can they (the NSW Government and the NSW Office of Water) possibly justify the charge? It’s downright obscene.’’
Mr Morton said ‘‘putting this large fee into context’’, it is more than his annual Wakool Shire land rates, which are ‘‘about $5000’’.
Mr Morton said he had approached NSW member for Murray-Darling John Williams and NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson for answers, but had not received any satisfactory responses.
‘‘I sent an email to Katrina Hodgkinson on Friday (last week), and have had no response,’’ he said on Wednesday.
‘‘I originally wrote to John Williams who immediately handballed me to the NSW Office of Water (NOW).
‘‘The politicians don’t want to know and the department (NOW) is saying IPART (the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) sets the prices.
‘‘My argument is that IPART didn’t just pluck a figure out of the air, they were acting on a recommendation from NOW.
‘‘They need to explain how it is possible to charge that amount of money.’’
Mr Morton says the total entitlements for unregulated use in the Murray Valley is 25,000ML.
He is calling on other affected licence holders to join with him to lobby for change.
‘‘There must be others out there who are just as frustrated,’’ he said.
‘‘I am happy for them to call me so we can develop a united response.’’
Anyone wishing to be involved in a lobby group is encouraged to contact Mr Morton on 0429 873 230.
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