Step up, Kev - Draper wades into water debate with blunt ultimatum

FORMER Tamworth MP Peter Draper has issued a blistering ultimatum to his successor, Kevin Anderson, calling on him to become “action man” on the issue of sky-high water bills.

In a rare foray into the public debate since being ousted in 2011, Mr Draper demanded Mr Anderson “stop collecting petitions and prove his worth” by reintroducing a bill to safeguard residents against water bill price spikes.

It comes as new figures reveal Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) ratepayers – already among the hardest hit in the state for water – would have their water bills ratcheted up by  

7 per cent overnight if a new State Water pricing proposal gets the nod.

Peel Valley irrigators have already raised fears the new pricing structure could kill of the local irrigation industry altogether.

TRC and local irrigation leaders will today meet in Canberra with parliamentary secretary for water Simon Birmingham and New England MP Barnaby Joyce to discuss the issue.

Mr Draper, who in 2010 attempted to introduce the Bulk Water Charges Bill to legislate against massive price rises for the Peel Valley, urged Mr Anderson to reintroduce the bill.

“It’s time for petition man to become action man,” Mr Draper said.

“People shouldn’t be penalised because they live in a catchment with a small dam and that’s exactly what’s happening.

“The issue is resolvable if Mr Anderson has the will.”

Under the State Water plan, which is awaiting ACCC approval, Peel Valley irrigators and council would be forced to cover the full cost of bulk water delivery, even though it could be up to 30 times higher than in other parts of the state.

State Water pricing policies are set on a valley-by-valley basis, with water users sharing the cost of dam operation.

Chaffey Dam, at just 62,000 megalitres capacity, has relatively fewer users than other dams in the state.

Mr Anderson strongly rejected claims he had failed to take action on the looming water price crisis.

“This has been an issue for many, many years and I’ve been meeting frequently with (Primary Industries Minister) Katrina Hodgkinson and (Local Government Minister) Don Page on the issue,” Mr Anderson said.

“I’ve also supported the submission from the Peel Valley Water Users.

“I’ve taken the fight up for irrigators and TRC and I’m not going to give up on it.”

Mr Anderson said he was also pushing for IPART to introduce a cross-subsidisation scheme between valleys to lessen the impost on locals of the proposed new charges.

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