IRRIGATORS in the Peel and Namoi valleys remain deeply cynical about a “political fix” for proposed water price rises in the region.
NSW deputy premier Andrew Stoner on Friday announced the government would investigate merging the Peel and Namoi valleys for pricing purposes in a bid to drive down prices for local irrigators and ratepayers.
The move comes just weeks out from a decision by the ACCC on whether to accept a State Water proposal to move to a “full cost recovery” model, meaning valleys with relatively few users – like the Peel – will face dramatic increases for water delivery.
But Namoi Water chairman Matt Norrie warned his members would strongly oppose any increase in charges to subsidise Peel water users.
“There’s no way irrigators below Keepit (Dam) are going to pay for the maintenance of Chaffey Dam – it’s that simple,” Mr Norrie said.
“We are opposed to sharing costs with the Peel because Chaffey has no benefit to us.
“We’re already paying among the highest usage and fixed charges in the state because we’re paying for two dams, Split Rock and Keepit.”
He said the group was committed to supporting a “postage stamp” system for water pricing, meaning the price of water was uniform across the state.
And despite predictions by Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson the merger of the Namoi and Peel would drive down water prices for irrigators, Peel Valley Water Users Association president Ildu Monticone remained sceptical.
“I’m not so sure it will work in our favour,” Mr Monticone said.
“We’ve got 45 per cent of (general security) entitlement this year and we’ll probably have zero allocations next year, yet we still have to pay full entitlement fees.
“By all means, do the modelling, but if it doesn’t produce any benefit for us we won’t support it.”
He said a planned review of the Peel’s water sharing plan was also unlikely to force down prices.
Tamworth councillor James Treloar said merging the two valleys’ costs would likely only have an impact on high security water prices.
“It would be of enormous benefit to council because we’re essentially the only high security user in the Peel,” Cr Treloar said.
“But the state government point blank refuses to acknowledge the amount of our water that’s put back into the environment.
“Ninety per cent of the water that falls in the Peel flows into the environment yet State Water wants us to pay for the full cost of running the dam.”