Farm­ers want fairer wa­ter charges

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE -

Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Lim­ited needs to make fixed charges fairer for smaller land­hold­ers, ac­cord­ing to a group of South­ern Rive­rina farm­ers.

They say fees and poli­cies set out in the com­pany’s Net­work Ser­vice Plan (NSP), re­leased last year and valid for five years, is geared to­ward big ir­ri­ga­tors.

As a re­sult, they say the fees are dis­pro­por­tion­ate, with smaller ir­ri­ga­tors pay­ing far more per me­gal­itre of wa­ter.

Lo­cal land­holder Graeme Close said there is about ‘‘350 lit­tle blokes’’ in the MIL net­work, all of which are be­ing slogged with high wa­ter prices.

He and fel­low land­hold­ers Jeremy Bell and Chris Bray­bon have en­cour­aged all small land­hold­ers to take part in MIL’s cur­rent fee and pol­icy re­view.

‘‘The only way we are go­ing to get any­where is to start whing­ing,’’ Mr Close said.

‘‘I have a prop­erty of five acres which has 15ML of wa­ter. I’d only use about 7ML of that and I’m pay­ing al­most $600 per ML.

‘‘There are some blokes with 20 acre blocks and 40ML of wa­ter, and they’re pay­ing $200/ML. They would never use all of that 40ML, but that’s what they have got.

‘‘They would only need to put an­other dol­lar on the big boys to be able to drop the smaller ones by half.’’

Mr Bell said with the high fees, it is start­ing to be­come un­eco­nom­i­cal to ‘‘do any­thing’’.

‘‘Most of the small ir­ri­ga­tors are up in arms - we’ve got higher fixed out­let and land­hold­ing fees and the de­liv­ery charges are geared to the big ir­ri­ga­tors.

‘‘MIL has promised to look at the struc­ture, so we need small ir­ri­ga­tors to com­plete the sur­vey.

‘‘If we don’t do some­thing now, we will just get run over.’’

MIL started its re­view in Au­gust, and MIL gen­eral man­ager An­thony Couroupis said it was de­vel­oped as a re­sult of cus­tomer feed­back.

Cus­tomers are now be­ing in­vited to pro­vide of­fi­cial feed­back in two phases, the first of which ends on Novem­ber 23.

Mi­nor in­creases have been sched­uled for vari­able stan­dard wa­ter us­age fees, which have also been di­vided into three dif­fer­ent pay­ment struc­tures.

The tier one fee is for users of be­tween 0-5 me­gal­itres of wa­ter, who will be sub­ject to MIL us­age fee in­creases of be­tween $1.14 and $1.26 per me­gal­itre over the next five years – to $44.17 in 2016/17. Added to gov­ern­ment charges, which will also in­crease slightly, the to­tal charge per me­gal­itre in 2016/17 will be $124.

Tier two sets a price for be­tween 6-100ML used. It pro­posed MIL us­age in­creases of be­tween $0.31 and $0.34 to end up with $11.94/ML in 2016/17 and a com­bined fee of $26.32/ML.

Tier three sets the price for land­hold­ers who use more than 100ML, and the NSP rec­om­mends MIL us­age charge in­creases of be­tween $.015 and $0.17. By 2016/17 the MIL us­age fee will be $5.97/ML and the com­bined charge will be $13.17.

The amount col­lected from MIL vari­able rates over the five year pe­riod is es­ti­mated at al­most $16.3 mil­lion com­bined.

South­ern Rive­rina Ir­ri­ga­tors chair Ted Hatty said he be­lieves the higher charges for small land­hold­ings sparked the re­view.

He be­lieves MIL, through the re­view, is try­ing to have a more bal­anced ap­proach to fees and dis­tribut­ing costs.

He also en­cour­aged all cus­tomers to be part of the feed­back process.

MIL be­lieves the Net­work Ser­vice plan should al­low it to turn around an oper­at­ing loss. It will be done by im­ple­ment­ing a num­ber of new fees for the next four years.

It will even­tu­ally see the com­pany’s es­ti­mated prof­its go from a pre­dicted loss of $2.6 mil­lion in this fi­nan­cial year to a pro­jected $782,163 profit in 2016/17.

‘‘The new pol­icy es­tab­lished a range of new fees, in­clud­ing land­hold­ing ac­cess, out­let and tiered us­age fees,’’ Mr Couroupis said.

The on­line sur­vey can be found at www.mur­rayir­ri­ga­tion.com.au, and must be com­pleted by 5pm on Novem­ber 23. An­other con­sul­ta­tion round will be held in Fe­bru­ary 2013.

■ Let­ter to the ed­i­tor, page 4.

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