Development could be ‘stunted’

REGIONAL development in the area could become stunted if the “highly inequitable” pricing of raw water in the Peel Valley is not addressed, a local civic leader has warned.

Cr James Treloar will move a notice of motion at tonight’s  extraordinary council meeting requesting Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) make urgent representations directly to Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner in his capacity as Minister for Regional Development to highlight the “significant negative impacts” exorbitant water charges in the Peel Valley will have on the future of development, investment and job security in the region.

Cr Treloar said any business that requires water as one of its core inputs will obviously be biased towards establishing themselves in a regional city that can offer water at the most competitive price, such as those falling within the south of the state.

“Water in the Murrumbidgee costs about one-eighth the price that TRC pays,” Cr Treloar said.

“This disadvantages Tamworth over Wagga Wagga who can offer cheaper bulk pricing.”

Councillors have made numerous representations at both state and federal level seeking a “postage stamp” pricing policy on water, to no avail.

Cr Treloar said although the utopia of postage stamp pricing may well be unachievable, TRC should continue to strongly advocate for the Peel Valley to be consolidated into the Namoi system with a single price being set for all raw water in the combined areas, at the very least.

Currently water charges drop from about $70 per megalitre to $35 per megalitre when water hits the Carroll Gap where the Peel Valley joins the Namoi Valley, Cr Treloar said.

“There is an enormous inequity,” he said.

“If you look back though history ... the federal government always knocked back zonal taxation in Australia ... but the state is very happy to have different pricing structures for water.

“If there is a Murray Darling Basin problem we are all in it together, but when it comes to the pricing it’s not one basin, which is absolutely ridiculous.” 

He said the impact on regional growth if the issue is not rectified could not be underestimated.

“We just have to keep trying,” Cr Treloar said.

“Other than taking the state to court, which is our very last resort ... we have to keep lobbying to get equity in the pricing structure.”

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