28 November 2011
Draft Basin Plan released
THE much anticipated and frequently delayed draft Murray Darling Basin Plan was made public overnight on Sunday on its website here. The draft Plan confirms that the Condamine Balonne catchment faces a significant cutback of 100,000 megalitres (100 gigalitres) to achieve the sustainable levels defined in the Plan. The Lower Balonne looks to be a priority area for the recovery of water, although notably only 5 gigalitres of the target has been acquired to date. With clearly so much water yet to shift from productive irrigation use, mostly via buyback programs, QFF remains concerned about the substantial economic and social impacts in local and regional communities of these proposed cutbacks.
The draft plan also indicates that entitlements to groundwater in the Upper Condamine area will have to be cut by over 50 percent to be sustainable. QFF does not support these recommendations unless we can be assured that irrigators, industry and communities in both areas can work with the MDBA and State and Commonwealth officials to verify the environmental water needs that are specified in the draft Plan. The Government will then need to focus on planning and implementing water recovery programs in both areas to minimise the impacts of cutbacks on communities. With such a volume of water to be removed from production, the socioeconomic impact will be significant, but steps can be taken to minimise that impact. QFF believes from our discussions with the Chairman of the Authority Craig Knowles he will champion and support this approach.
FEDERAL PANEL TO INVESTIGATE COAL SEAM GAS ISSUES
THE Federal Government last week announced a $200 million package that aims to improve the science around coal seam gas (CSG), as part of negotiations on the Minerals Resources Rent Tax (MRRT). The package is to provide $150 million to establish an Independent Expert Scientific Committee that will provide scientific advice to governments about relevant CSG and large coal mining approvals where they have significant impacts on water; oversee research on impacts on water resources from CSG and large coal mining projects; and commission and fund water resource assessments for priority regions. It will establish a new National Partnership Agreement with the states through COAG, agreeing that the Commonwealth and states have to take into account the advice of the Committee in their assessment and approval decisions. It will also provide $50 million in ‘incentive payments’ to the states to deliver this outcome, and mandate that the Independent Expert Scientific Committee publicly disclose its advice to ensure local communities have all the best information available to them.
QFF believes that the greatest onus of responsibility for planning these projects remains with the State Government, however we welcome the Federal focus on this important issue. These new measures will therefore require utmost cooperation between the State and Commonwealth for there to be notable change on the ground when it comes to expansion of the CSG industry.
It is also worth noting that the Federal Government already has powers through environmental assessments under the EPBC Act to consider and consequently allow or disallow major gas projects. It is a concern therefore that the Government is conceding the need for such a panel and improved science, after it has already granted sweeping approvals for CSG projects across Queensland, including the Curtis Island LNG facility. QFF believes that Government and the gas industry need to be proactive about planning for risks by simply not approving development of industries that may put any stress on groundwater systems that are already known to be under significant stress already.
ABC DELVES INTO THE NUMBERS ON CSG
MEANWHILE, the ABC last week has launched a website giving a detailed analysis of coal seam gas, pulling together resources from a wide range of sources. It is accessible here. It has extensive information on CSG and its extraction, and also outlines many farmer and community concerns. It also alleges that the Queensland Government ignored environmental safety guidelines when it granted Origin Energy and ConocoPhillips permission to release toxic water from its coal seam gas operations into the Condamine River near Chinchilla. That story is available here.
QFF PRESIDENT ADDRESSES COURIER MAIL BUSINESS LUNCH
QFF President Joanne Grainger last week sat on a panel discussion as part of the Courier Mail’s Let the Sun Shine In business lunch. Ms Grainger spoke on the topic of ‘how do we use our strengths to make Queensland a better place’ alongside speakers from Events Queensland, the Queensland Investment Corporation, Super A-Mart, and Ausenco. Ms Grainger used the forum and a recent column in the Courier Mail to explain Queensland farmers’ progress with the flood and cyclone recovery, and to point out key policy priorities that would allow agriculture to continue to grow as a key pillar of the State economy.
REGROWTH VEGETATION WORKSHOPS IN SUNSHINE COAST REGION
QFF is holding a vegetation and regrowth workshop at the Maroochydore Research Station, 47 Mayers Road, Nambour, on November 29 from 9.30am to 1.30pm. The participants will be given a background to Queensland’s Vegetation Management Act (1999) and vegetation framework, as well a detailed session on the recently released Regrowth Vegetation Code policy and procedures. Farmers who have questions about the protected native vegetation on their properties or are unsure of what the Regrowth Code is or how it applies to them, will be find these workshops very worthwhile. Landholders who do not have a Property Map of Assessable Vegetation (PMAV) or have not recently checked the DERM website to check their vegetation status on their property are also encouraged to attend. The workshops are free and lunch and morning tea will be provided. Contact Kel Towerton on (07) 3837 4747 or email@example.com.
REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AUSTRALIA BOOSTS QUEENSLANDS REGIONS
QFF participated last week in a “The Art of Influence” forum hosted by Minister Tim Mulherin in his capacity as Minister for Regional Development and jointly responsible for the twelve Queensland Committees appointed to guide the work of Regional Development Australia (RDA) in this state. These Queensland RDAs are a key focus point for influencing how state and federal resources are channelled into regional projects to support economic development priorities. A key message that emerged from presentations and workshops was that RDAs must work with the government agencies to ensure better data and research is available to guide government programs and priorities. The work plans (known as Regional Roadmaps) of the RDAs relevant to Queensland regions can be located via the RDA website.
SUNWATER PRICING CONSULTATIONS BEGIN
THE Queensland Competition Authority commenced its three week program of consultations on water prices in the Burnett region last week. SunWater customers in the Lower Mary made it clear to QCA that they could not afford the recommended prices and the proposed tariffs would discourage use, thereby further reducing cost recovery. QCA has assessed this irrigation scheme as being below 50 percent cost recovery. Customers could not understand how the costs in this irrigation scheme had changed so dramatically since the last price path was developed in 2006. They questioned whether SunWater was managing the scheme in the best interests of customers. They also wanted to see how increased centralisation of SunWater scheme management in Brisbane and regional offices had generated efficiencies because, at the scheme level, services had declined significantly. The meeting focused on discussing measures that could be addressed to turn the scheme around. It was generally agreed that the proposed prices would mean an end to the scheme.
The meetings at the Barker Barambah, Boyne and Upper Burnett schemes were more positive. Customers welcomed QCA price recommendations which were lower than they had expected. Questions focused on key cost elements in renewals and operating costs. In schemes like the Barker/Barambah there were concerns about the high level of renewals debt which would burden the scheme into the future. Overall the first round of consultations reflected what is likely to be the pattern over the coming weeks. That is, most of the bulk schemes are expected to generally accept the QCA recommendations whereas most of the eight distribution schemes will press for a significant review of cost elements and the identification of measures to substantially reduce prices in the final report by QCA due by April next year.
Irrigators are urged to attend upcoming meetings on the price review process:
Water Supply Scheme
|28 Nov||Mareeba-Dimbulah (including Distribution)||1pm – 4pm||Mareeba||Mareeba RSL|
|29 Nov||Maranoa||2pm – 5pm||Mitchell||Berkeley Lodge Motor Inn|
|29 Nov||Burdekin-Haughton (including Distribution)||11am – 2pm||Clare||Clare Club|
|30 Nov||Eton||9am – 12pm||Mackay||TAFE Meeting RoomSydney St.|
|30 Nov||Pioneer||1:30pm – 4:30pm||Mackay||TAFE Meeting RoomSydney St.|
|1 Dec||Proserpine||10am – 1pm||Proserpine||Proserpine RSL|
|1 Dec||Bowen Broken Rivers||4pm – 6pm||Collinsville||Opal Ridge Motel|
|5 Dec||Chinchilla Weir||2pm – 5pm||Chinchilla||Chinchilla Council Chambers|
|5 Dec||Lower Fitzroy||11am – 1pm||Rockhampton||Corporate Business Centre214 Quay St.|
|6 Dec||Upper Condamine||10am – 1pm||Cecil Plains||Cecil Plains Hall|
|6 Dec||Nogoa-Mackenzie (including Emerald)||9am – 12pm||Emerald||Central Highlands Regional Council Town Hall|
|7 Dec||Macintyre Brook||10am – 1pm||Inglewood||Inglewood Civic Centre|
|7 Dec||Dawson Valley (including Distribution)||9am – 12pm||Theodore||Theodore Hotel|
|7 Dec||Callide Valley||3pm – 6pm||Biloela||Biloela Civic Centre|
|8 Dec||St George (including Distribution)||9am – 12pm||St George||Balonne Skill Centre|
|8 Dec||Three Moon Creek||9:30am – 12:30pm||Monto||Monto Colonial Inn|
|9 Dec||Bundaberg (including Distribution)||9am – 12pm||Bundaberg||Old Bundy Tavern20 Quay St.|
CANEGROWERS WELCOMES NEW QSL CHAIR
CANEGROWERS has welcomed the appointment of Mike Carroll as the incoming Chairman of sugar marketing group, Queensland Sugar Limited (QSL). “Carroll brings a great depth of expertise, with particular strength in the areas of agribusiness and finance, and his appointment will underpin the continued commercial focus and drive that has seen QSL achieve premium pricing for Australian sugar on the world stage in recent years,” said CANEGROWERS CEO, Steve Greenwood. Carroll will take up the position from 1 January 2012, taking over from the retiring chairman Alan Winney who will complete his three year term with QSL on 31 December 2011. Mr Carroll’s recent career as a Non-Executive Director has a strong agribusiness focus. Current directorships include Meat and Livestock Australia Ltd, Warrnambool Cheese & Butter, Sunny Queen and the Rural Finance Corporation. He is also a director of the Australian Farm Institute.
DONATIONS OPEN FOR COTTON FLOOD FUND
AS part of Cotton Australia’s flood relief efforts, dealing with the longer term issues of recovery and persistence in the cotton industry have been a consistent focus. The Cotton Industry Flood Relief Fund was established to provide financial support for those flood affected growers with a history in the industry, allowing them access to funds to plant another crop this season. An independent board has the task of sorting through applications for assistance and allocating financial support based on the criteria of need. Kicked off by a $2 million donation from Monsanto, the Cotton Industry Flood Relief Fund has now finally been given approval by the authorities in Queensland and NSW to commence fund raising in both States. Unfortunately the Federal Government denied the Fund’s application for tax deductibility, claiming the criteria in just supporting cotton growers was too narrow.
Non-impacted growers are being asked to consider donating. Donating to the Cotton Industry Flood Relief Fund before 5 December will allow your financial support to be made available to successful applicants before the end of the year. Donations to the Cotton Industry Flood Relief Fund can be made by direct deposit into the fund’s ANZ bank account. The BSB is 012 040 and the account number is 2041 184 49. Please contact Cotton Australia if you would like a receipt.« Back to Weekly Bulletin