NSW Upper House water inquiry in Tamworth, affordable water call

WHILE the state’s metropolitan areas are calling for more affordable housing, the bush is screaming out for “affordable water”.

The bold statement was made at a parliamentary inquiry into securing the future of water in NSW, which sat in Tamworth on Tuesday.

Tamworth mayor Col Murray addressed the committee and pointed out the extraordinarily high water prices the Peel Valley paid compared to other regions. In the 2016/17 financial year, Tamworth Regional Council paid more than $858,000 for its water licence, which allowed it to access a total of 16,000 megalitres – of which, it only used 4800 megalitres.

“If that water was secured in the Murray, the cost would be $44,444, and even cheaper in Murrumbidgee,” Cr Murray said.

“It is a serious anomaly. I don’t think we can go on indefinitely into the future with this.”

Committee member and Christian Democratic MLC Paul Green said the price of water should be high on the government’s agenda.

“We talk like crazy about this hot topic of affordable housing, but out in regional areas it's affordable water,” Mr Green said. 

However, fellow committee member and Liberal MLC Scot MacDonald said comparing the Peel Valley to other regions was not a “fair comparison”.

“You’re not comparing apples with apples,” Mr MacDonald said.

“We are talking about 10 times the amount of water, 10 times the amount of water users. You’re a lot smaller system.”

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MLC and committee chair Robert Brown said in the Peel Valley there was a particular problem with the price of water, but the underlying problem was the availability of water.

“The shortage wherever we go is water,” Mr Brown said.

“Unless we can solve the problem, we’re probably going to be in a bit of trouble in 50 years’ time.”

Mr Brown said the inquiry would wrap up in November, with the committee submitting its recommendations to the government.

“Whether the government of the day accepts those recommendations or decides to do anything about it is really on the shoulders of the government itself,” he said.

“Unfortunately governments and parliaments in this country think in four-year terms and three-year terms. But with an issue like this, we’re talking about the future of the nation and certainly the future of our state.”

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