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Irrigators form group to fight power hikes

SHOCKING PRICES: Bundaberg cane grower Richard Zunker is concerned by the soaring power prices which are threatening irrigators’ productivity.
SHOCKING PRICES: Bundaberg cane grower Richard Zunker is concerned by the soaring power prices which are threatening irrigators’ productivity. Mike Knott BUNZUN

A GROUP of Bundaberg irrigators have formed an organisation to fight electricity price rises, which could soar by 17.5% a year for the next seven years under Queensland Competition Authority recommendations. It comes on top of price rises of 250% since 2000, the group says.

Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group (BRIG) has been established to represent irrigators in the district across a range of commodity groups including sugarcane, grain and horticulture, manager and irrigator Dale Holliss said.

Mr Holliss said the Bundaberg region had a much greater reliance on agriculture - about 13% - than Queensland as a whole, at 3.4%.

"On top of that the food and fibre products that we produce are export dominated and it is impossible to pass through electricity price increases to the end consumer," he said.

"This reliance on irrigation means that any negative impact on our farmers' ability to generate and market the crops and products that they produce has a much greater impact on our community than in other areas."

Mr Holliss said the State Government was now deciding on electricity prices.

The group is calling on the State Government to remove the Network component on irrigator tariffs, limit electricity price rises to the Consumer Price Index and apply the Community Service Obligation (CSO) to the Network component of Ergon Energy's costs.

A spokeswoman for Energy Minister Mark McArdle said it was unfortunate the irrigators wanted to blame the State Government for electricity price rises that were the fault of past Labor governments.

"In fact, the only electricity price rise since we have come into government has been the Gillard Government's carbon tax," she said.

State Government, she said, would continue to provide regional Queensland with an annual $500 million subsidy to keep electricity prices low.

LNP candidate for Hinkler Keith Pitt said if the Coalition won the election one of their first actions would be to repeal the carbon tax.

Topics:  agriculture electricity farming irrigators power bills


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