Mildura Weekly : Friday June 20 Vol 8 No 33
Mildura Weekly – 20/06/14 3 www.milduraphonebook.com.au IRYMPLE grape grower Greg Milner slammed Lower Murray Water this week following the release of the organisation’s ru- ral water tariff charges for 2014/15. His criticism comes despite the fact that irriga- tors in Merbein and Red Cliffs are set to pay less for allocations next finan- cial year as part of the rate changes, with Red Cliffs irrigators to receive a five percent decrease and Mer- bein irrigators a one per- cent decrease as part of the new rates system. Mildura and Robin- vale irrigators on the other hand will be on the receiv- ing end of a four percent rise in prices, with all in- creases less than those predicted in LMW’s five- year price forecast (Water Plan 3) – implemented in July 2013 – with Merbein and Red Cliffs custom- ers avoiding an increase all-together, and Mildura irrigators receiving a four percent rise as opposed to the scheduled five percent increase. Tariff rises in Robinva- le were as expected in the Water Plan 3 price gauge, with all changes based on revenue received by LMW in the 2013/14 financial year. Mildura and Robin- vale irrigators with a 100 megalitre allocation (and who use their full allot- ment) can expect to pay an extra $540 for the year, while Red Cliffs irrigators with the same allocation will save an estimated $620. Mr Milner, PIC- TURED, described the de- creases as a “smoke and mirror”tactic, saying Low- er Murray Water was trying to put a positive spin on a negative situation. “The fact is that irriga- tors in Sunraysia already pay more for water than other areas,” he said. “In my opinion Lower Murray Water is the most inefficient organisation in Australia. “They refuse to be benchmarked against oth- er water authorities, and are just a top heavy gov- ernment authority who won’t take on any advice from growers. “In my opinion the whole structure is de- signed to hurt growers, and the Victorian Govern- ment has no consideration toward the high prices that LMW are charging Sunray- sia irrigators. “Our government sees irrigators as a dying breed – one not worthy of sup- port. “While to an outsider these figures might look positive, it’s all spin. The truth is irrigators in Sun- raysia pay more than they should for water.” Mildura South grape grower Jim Belbin was also quick to dismiss this week’s decreases, describ- ing them as “insignificant” compared to the overall cost of water in the region. “Water prices in Sun- raysia have risen dramati- cally over the past few years, and according to Lower Murray Water’s five- year forecast, it’s only go- ing to get worse,” he said. “Five years ago grow- ers in Sunraysia were pay- ing a drainage charge of $4.98 a megalitre, that fig- ure is now $56 a megalitre under LMW with no justi- fication for the rise. “Overall growers are paying anywhere between $140 and $180 a mega- litre, which is 50 percent more than growers in Western Murray pay, and two-and-a-half times what growers in the Central Ir- rigation District pay.” Acting managing di- rector of Lower Murray Water, David Girdwood, flagged “varying levels of change” when unveiling the revised charges earlier this week. “The reason we have seen some price differ- ences compared to the Water Plan 3 is there was a higher level of usage in this irrigation season in Red Cliffs, Merbein and Mildura compared to Wa- ter Plan 3 forecast usage,” he said. “This means we hand back to customers – through prices – any rev- enue which is above the revenue cap approved in Water Plan 3 by the Essen- tial Services Commission. “This is in line with the Lower Murray Water board’s direction to keep any increases to a mini- mum. “Within the Millewa region we will see an in- crease in tariffs of seven percent, and this is associ- ated with the $3.5million capital works program which saw the comple- tion of the new water quality treatment plant and pipeline at Lake Cul- lulleraine. “For our private diver- sion customers there will be a five percent increase compared to the Water Plan 3 scheduled price in- crease of six percent. “This change is due to the increase in the vol- ume of annual use limit within the Nyah to South Australian border region.” LMW general man- ager – customer services, Owen Russell, said simi- lar tariff increases were being seen across Victoria in other irrigation areas. “Prices have gone up three to four percent across the State,” he said. Mr Russell said ur- ban/residential customers would also be advised of any potential rate changes over the coming weeks. “Changes to tariffs released this week only apply to irrigation prop- erties – blockies, farm- ers etc.,” he said. “Lower Murray Water will release updated urban water tar- iff charges in the coming weeks.” Water tariffs down But it’s all smoke and mirrors, says Milner THE Mallee’s numer- ous national parks and reserves have almost to- tally recovered from the bushfires which ravaged the region in January this year. Three major fires in the Wyperfeld National Park, Big Desert Wilder- ness Park and Bronze- wing Flora and Fauna Reserve burnt through more than 65,000 hect- ares earlier this year and at times threatened the outskirts of Ouyen. The blazes triggered a massive fire fighting operation at the time in- volving more than 300 personnel, 35 tankers, 12 aircraft and a host of other vehicles. While the fires have been out for some time, it’s taken months for all the affected parks to be re-opened to the public. Wyperfeld National Park, Lake Albacutya Park, Murray Sunset National Park and the Bronzewing Flora and Fauna Reserves were all opened ahead of the La- bour Day long weekend in March. Red Bluff Flora and Fauna Reserve mean- while was only recently opened in time for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend. Parks Victoria’s North West District manager, Dale Antonysen, con- firmed this week all risk assessments had been completed and all parks were open for the winter school holidays. “Quite a few Queen’s Birthday weekend camp- ers expressed their sur- prise at the rapid return of colour following the fires,” Mr Antonysen said. “The natural recovery of the land following the warm weather and rain is definitely a welcome sight.” Despite the improved conditions, Mr Antony- sen warned people to steer clear of any black- ened trees, which were still prevalent. 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Friday June 13 Vol 8 No 32
Friday June 27 Vol 8 No 34