“The RGA is alarmed by the significant water charge increases proposed for the two reviews of NSW government water charges currently occurring” is the view of RGA President, Rob Massina.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) is currently reviewing the pricing proposals provided for both WaterNSW for its rural bulk water delivery services, and the Water Administration Management Corporation (WAMC) for its water management services.

In particular, for the 2021/22 Water Year, WaterNSW is proposing a price increase in the Murrumbidgee of 14.7% for the General Security water charge, and 14.1% for water usage charge, and for the Murray, an increase of 36.2% for the General Security water charge and 33.2% for water usage charge. These cost increases include an increase to MDBA ‘pass-through’ charges of between 43.9% and 61.5% for both valleys.

“The WaterNSW pricing determination is supposedly based upon the ‘efficient costs’ of water delivery. However, with such steep increases proposed over a one-year period, it is hard to believe that WaterNSW (and the MDBA) has sought to achieve cost efficiencies.”

At the same time, the NSW WAMC is proposing a price increase for the water planning, management and regulation services carried out by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), the Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) and Water NSW.

In summary, the WAMC proposal seeks a water charge increase of 22% over four years (including. inflation). The justification for this increase is the need to deliver additional services “to address the recommendations of past inquiries and stakeholder concerns”, including compliance, environmental water management, water take measurement and strategic water planning services.

Despite the National Water Initiative calling for States to give effect to the fair principles of ‘user-pays’, NSW continues to go down the highly contentious pathway of ‘impactor-pays’, which unfairly makes irrigators foot the bill on behalf of everyone.

“The RGA argues that the general public are a key beneficiary of many of these services, and hence it is unreasonable to expect irrigators to foot the bill for many of these activities. In addition, many of the proposed improvements are to services that irrigators have historically paid for, but which have been poorly delivered by government, hence it is also unreasonable to ask for these services to be paid for again.”

“Both proposed price increases are insensitive to the current realities of the farming landscape. Our growers have recently emerged from drought, with two years of extremely low water allocations. Many are now planting their first rice crop in a number of years, and face the difficult financial pressures associated with ramping up production. Large price increases now only serve to increase the financial challenge for many.”

“We encourage IPART to pay careful consideration to the concerns raised by the stakeholder submissions to the review, including the detailed submission provided by our peak body, the NSW Irrigators’ Council” said Mr Massina.