Bipartisan support has been given for cheaper water prices as the Queensland state election race enters the home stretch.

Labor joined the party to announce a 15 per cent reduction in water charges for farmers accessing the state-owned irrigation schemes, and half-price water specifically for fruit and vegetable growers.

This will start from July 2021.

Earlier this month the LNP announced they would cut water costs by 20 per cent and Katter’s Australian Party have promised a 25 per cent reduction.

The Australian Sugar Milling Council (ASMC) released a report earlier this year into irrigation water charges and their consistent increase over many years, putting forward a range of potential reductions between 15 and 25 per cent.

“So now we have commitments that fit within that range,” ASMC CEO David Pietsch said.

“It’s not just a benefit to the canegrowers and the sugar millers, it would also deliver broader benefits to the communities that rely on our industry.”

More questions than answers

Canegrowers CEO Dan Galligan said the industry was relieved to have secured solid promises from the major political parties.

He said the decrease would result in substantial savings for irrigators across growing regions

“So we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars, certainly for the average grower in the Burdekin, easily $10,000 to $15,000 will be saved by a 15 per cent reduction,” Mr Galligan said.

“The price of water and electricity were essential to our election pitch, so this is a really important initiative.”

A linear irrigator on wheels sprays water across a field.
Bipartisan support has been announced for cheaper water charges for irrigators across Queensland.(Supplied: Bundaberg Sugar)

But he said many questions still remained, including around the different reductions for cane and horticulture crops.

“Pumps don’t differentiate where the water is going, obviously, and a lot of our members grow more than just cane,” Mr Galligan said.

“So many irrigators will be trying to work out how that works if Labor forms government this weekend.”

‘We create the most jobs’

In the far north of the state Joe Moro has a crop of mangoes that are drip fed from the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme.

He said the interest all major state parties have taken in water pricing is timely acknowledgement of the heavy lifting the industry has done this pandemic.

“By water pricing coming down, they acknowledge that it will create more jobs,” Mr Moro said.

“The horticulture industry is phenomenal for creating jobs, we create the most jobs in all the agriculture industries.

“And if farmers can make a dollar out of it, they will reinvest it.

“We have seen that in the Tablelands in particular, we will see more confidence.”

Bundaberg calls for more

Bundaberg-based macadamia grower Andrew Lewis said while the announcement was a step in the right direction, they need more.

“I think it’s good news but what we’d really like to see is a guarantee prior to the election for the Bundaberg region — Paradise Dam will be returned to full supply level,” he said.

“The 130,000 megalitres that are missing from that dam at the moment that will be a real guarantee that there will be jobs in the future.

Drone photo of construction vehicles and workers at spillway of Paradise Dam near Bundaberg.
One Bundaberg farmer is welcoming the announcement but wants to see more commitments around Paradise Dam.(ABC News: David Shipton)

Mr Lewis also wants to see more detail.

“Irrigation costs are a big consideration for us the cost of the actual water is probably two thirds of the cost and power would be the other third,” he said.

“You think about it every time you turn the pump on.

“It’d be interesting to see how long these price reductions continue on for — it’d be nice to think they go well into the future.

“In a COVID year we’ve all grown to understand that having access to fresh fruit and vegetables and everything else that comes from agriculture as well as jobs has been critical to powering the state of Queensland.”

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