Ifwe can’t grow sug­ar­cane, what would you sug­gest?

Isis Town and Country - - Front Page - PHOTO: MAX FLEET

TOUGH CHOICE: Isis farmer Keith An­der­son and more than 800 ir­ri­ga­tors from the Bund­aberg and Isis re­gions have to de­cide whether they sup­port a pro­posal to own and man­age the chan­nel ir­ri­ga­tion scheme cur­rently owned by SunWater.

DO YOU want to man­age the SunWater Chan­nel Ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem?

This was the tough ques­tion asked of Childers farm­ers by mem­bers of the Bund­aberg-Isis In­terim Board, which was vis­it­ing the town af­ter be­ing es­tab­lished to ex­am­ine the ir­ri­ga­tion pro­posal.

Al­most 50 farm­ers at­tended the Wed­nes­day, June 11, meet­ing at the Isis Cul­tural Cen­tre, where Bund­aberg-Isis In­terim Board chair­man Mau­rie Maughan rec­om­mended the grow­ers vote to run the com­pany.

If the ma­jor­ity of grow­ers go with the board’s rec­om­men­da­tion, al­most a bil­lion dol­lars worth of SunWater as­sets in the Childers and Bund­aberg re­gion ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem will be pri­vately run – by the ir­ri­ga­tors.

But Childers cane­grower Keith An­der­son, whose fam­ily has been in the in­dus­try for more than 100 years, said he was con­fused and re­mained un­sure which way he would vote.

“I don’t know what to think about it all,” Mr An­der­son said.

“I was think­ing about voting ‘yes’ and now I don’t know.”

In the meet­ing, which ran more than two hours, Mr Maughan pre­sented a se­ries of Pow­erPoint slides, in­clud­ing graph­ics and sta­tis­tics.

He ex­plained to the grow­ers that the com­pany’s shares would be di­vided at one per me­gal­itre of their al­lo­ca­tion, al­low­ing ir­ri­ga­tors to at­tend and vote at com­pany meet­ings.

Mr Maughan told the ir­ri­ga­tors the cur­rent price agree­ment for wa­ter would stay on the same price path un­til its ex­piry in 2017, af­ter which it would in­crease by about 5% per an­num.

But for SunWater, a govern­ment-owned cor­po­ra­tion, to con­sider the board’s pro­posal it would have to be es­tab­lished the State Govern­ment would ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially from the han­dover.

Mr Maughan said while the State Govern­ment would ini­tially have to dish out in the vicin­ity of a $100 mil­lion sep­a­ra­tion pay­ment, it would break even in 20 years and ben­e­fit in the long term.

For the ir­ri­ga­tors, he said “a num­ber of ben­e­fits” out­weighed the costs if they chose to take on the com­pany.

“They will be in con­trol of the as­sets that sup­ply them their way,” he said.

“There will be fund­ing in place to en­sure that the ex­ist­ing ser­vice lev­els are main­tained.

“And there will be fund­ing in place to en­sure the in­di­cated price path is main­tained.”

He said the fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits for the ir­ri­ga­tors would start im­me­di­ately, un­like for the State Govern­ment.

“The fi­nan­cial ben­e­fits start from the minute they take over the scheme. The ben­e­fits will ac­crue from the time they take over man­age­ment,” he said.

Af­ter Mr Maughan fin­ished his pre­sen­ta­tion, he opened the floor to ques­tions.

Mr An­der­son con­sid­ered the pro­posal and raised his hand with a ques­tion that saw the for­merly silent crowd chuckle.

“What would you sug­gest we grow over here then?

“If we can’t grow sug­ar­cane, what would you sug­gest we grow in the Isis if we can’t af­ford wa­ter,” Mr An­der­son said.

While Mr Maughan didn’t have a so­lu­tion to Mr An­der­son’s ques­tion, he was clear the farm­ers had to make a de­ci­sion one way or the other.

“No mat­ter which way we go, we are stuck on a scheme that is very costly to run,” he said.

“Please vote one way or the other.”

PHOTO: MAX FLEET BUN130614AND8

PRICE HIKE: Isis farmer Keith An­der­son and more than 800 ir­ri­ga­tors from the Bund­aberg and Isis re­gions have to de­cide whether they sup­port a pro­posal to own and man­age the chan­nel ir­ri­ga­tion scheme cur­rently owned by SunWater.

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