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New charge replaces water saving

NSW Office of Water charges will be frozen for two years.

ZOE MCMAUGH August 1, 2014 3:23am

NSW Office of Water charges will be frozen for two years, which farmers say will take some pressure off the irrigation industry.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal announced it would defer its determination on water charges, meaning the price will remain unchanged until July 1, 2016.

The decision to incorporate new fees into State Water charges, however, is likely to negate any cost savings.

Determined by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, State Water fees include a cost to cover the NSW Government’s share of Murray-Darling Basin Authority joint programs.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair John Bradford said the NOW freeze was ‘‘encouraging’’ while the State Water increase was a ‘‘bite in the tail’’.

‘‘Irrigators are paying for the MDBA now,’’ he said of the State Water charges.

‘‘With that cost now passed on to the industry, we’re saying that if we have to pay we want a say.

‘‘We could be happy to help pay the MDBA, but we don’t want to pay for anything that is not relevant to us.

‘‘It is still a bit of a sting in the tail that we don’t know who or what we’re paying for.

‘‘We want the MDBA to do their job in the most cost efficient way and we want to be provided with a breakdown of where the costs are.’’

Total water prices recommended by the ACCC include a $6.68 per megalitre charge for water usage, of which $4.19 is an MDBA tariff. The charge is an increase of 35 per cent on last year.

High security water will be charged at $4.52/ML (including $2.84 MDBA tariff) for 2014/15, an increase of 43 per cent and general security will increase by 10 per cent to $2.56/ML ($1.61 MDBA).

To date, only the 2014/15 fees have been approved by the NSW Government, with 2015/16 and 2016/17 subject to further cost share reviews.

Mr Bradford said irrigators were aware an MDBA fee was coming, but were unaware at what cost.

He said IPART’s decision on NOW fees was encouraging, particularly because every other cost for farmers seems to be going up.

‘‘Every time a cost increases it makes it harder for us to reach our margins.’’

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