THE state's eight SunWater channel irrigation schemes are reaching an important stage in the decision-making process that will decide whether they transition to local management.
Should they continue to be managed and owned by SunWater or by local communities? The local management option is an approach QFF and many of our members have been seeking for several years. We see there are a number of inefficiencies as a result of SunWater being run as a large corporate entity in Brisbane, which results in higher water prices for farmers.
Therefore, we welcome the opportunity provided by the State Government for interim boards to investigate the local management arrangements process, which is now taking place across the eight distribution schemes: Bundaberg, Burdekin-Haughton, Emerald, Eton, Lower Mary, Mareeba-Dimbulah, St George and Theodore.
Each of the interim boards for the schemes is conducting due diligence on legal and financial issues to prepare their business plan. This plan will then be taken to farmers for consultation in the coming months, before a final business plan is sent to the State Government.
Farmers believe they must take advantage of this unique opportunity, so local communities have greater control over their infrastructure and sustainable prices are achieved.
The interim chairman of the Bundaberg LMA board, Maurie Maughan, recently told QFF it had been a technical process understanding key issues, such as electricity costs, the conditions of the scheme assets and possible future needs and demands of the scheme, based on changing crops in the region. He added consulting with local farmers was crucial to ensuring the process would be a success.
If irrigators support these proposals, a final report will be sent to the State Government in mid-2014, with a government decision expected in the second half of this year, Mr Maughan said. The transition to local management would take place in 2015.
As we know, each irrigation scheme is different and faces unique challenges and opportunities. Consultation information will also be available through local industry associations such as Canegrowers, Cotton Australia and Growcom. Details at www.lmairrigation. com.au.