The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY(Leader of the Opposition)(14:22:58): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Water a question about the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I have a copy of a letter from the minister to Mr Mick Deland of Naracoorte, dated 12 October, in which you attempt to explain the principles on the application of the volumetric conversion of water licences. I think the letter does answer some of the questions but, sadly, there are still some other questions unanswered. I am also told that the members of the Mid South East Irrigators Association were made aware of the requirement to apply for the delivery component, despite the expectation from previous workshop attendance that this was an integral part of an efficient operation and, therefore, would be automatically included as part of the volumetric allocation. However, they were not told about the charges that may well be allocated to those delivery components.
I read from some other information that was provided to me by Mr Deland after he had spoken to the secretary of the Mid South East Irrigators Association. He said they indicated that the delivery component is added onto the base component which significantly increases the cost above what could be expected with an inflation addition to past years. So, it is hardly a no disadvantage policy that the government is implementing. He also went on to say—and I think this is the most concerning thing—that, because of the uncertainty about these delivery components, he is informed by a neighbour that if the neighbour used the same amount of water this year, as they did last year, his fines or charges would amount to an increase of some $70,000.
I think the irrigators have some justifiable concerns that the volumetric conversion process is potentially being used to camouflage the significant increases in levies to cover the increased operations of the NRM. As we know, there are significant issues to do with that right across the South-East. The question is, if it is resolved this year that the delivery component is to be granted, but not until the end of the irrigation season, will irrigators be fined for using water that then eventually will be allocated to them?
I think the minister needs to provide some clarity, given the horrendous season that is happening in the state, especially down there with two consecutive years of decile 1 rainfall. So the irrigation is very, very important. Could the minister provide some clarity around whether irrigators will be required to pay these fees if they get their delivery component even later in the season?
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER(Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change)(14:25:41): I thank the honourable member for his most important question and his ongoing interest in this area. It has been very helpful for me to receive the advice of the Hon. Mr Ridgway in these regards. It assists me in framing questions which I then pass on to my agency for further advice. On 30 April, I think I have advised previously, the South-East NRM board wrote to me asking if the Lower Limestone Coast water allocation plan could be amended to allow a period for irrigators to apply for delivery supplements or specialised production requirement. Who missed the application period.
My understanding is that I will be receiving advice from the department on the suggested amendments to the Lower Limestone Coast water allocation plan very soon and on the ramifications that will have for local irrigators. When I have that information at hand, I will then be able to make an assessment as to the questions that the Hon. Mr Ridgway has asked. I will take the question on notice and bring back a response when I am informed.
The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY(Leader of the Opposition)(14:26:45): Will the minister make that a high priority, given that the irrigators need to irrigate? The need has already started; it is an extremely dry season. They need some clarity.
The Hon. I.K. HUNTER(Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Minister for Water and the River Murray, Minister for Climate Change)(14:26:56): I thank the member for his supplementary question. These are issues that I have reminded my agency about, the need for some urgency, and that is why my expectation is that I will be advised from the agency in the very near future.