MP calls on IPART to act on water prices

TAMWORTH MP Kevin Anderson has called on the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to address “grossly unfair” water charges being forced on the region’s ratepayers and irrigators.

In the latest salvo in a battle to stop State Water implementing harsh new charges on Peel Valley users, Mr Anderson demanded IPART introduce a “cross-subsidisation scheme” for the region, which would force water users in other valleys to help pay for the Peel’s increased charges.

The State Water price hikes, based on a user-pays system, are currently being reviewed by the ACCC, which will hand down its findings on February 14 before the matter is considered by IPART.

“It is grossly unfair the Peel Valley is charged 10 times as much for water as some other valleys,” Mr Anderson said.

“I’m imploring IPART to look at cross-subsidisation where one valley helps another, similar to what happens at the Hunter and Paterson River.

“They know the storage and delivery costs can’t be met by Paterson users and they can’t get full cost recovery, so they share the costs with the Hunter.

“Exactly the same situation is happening in the Peel and IPART should recommend the same thing.”

The new charges will double Tamworth Regional Council’s (TRC) fixed water costs and see an across-the-board 7 per cent increase on water bills, while Peel irrigators feel the rise could decimate the local irrigation industry.

TRC ratepayers already pay among the highest rate in the state for water.

Meanwhile, Tamworth councillor James Treloar and a contingent from Peel Valley Water Users held a crisis meeting with federal parliamentary secretary for water Simon Birmingham in Canberra on Wednesday to discuss the issue.

Cr Treloar described the meeting, which was also attended by New England MP Barnaby Joyce, as “promising”.

“We expressed a range of concerns, including the fact (the charges) would impact on the region’s potential to attract new businesses,” Cr Treloar said.

“He (Mr Birmingham) was very understanding and seemed well-briefed.”

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