G-MW challenge water pricing comparison

By Rodney Woods

What customers pay for water in northern Victoria and the southern Riverina is an unfair comparison, according to Goulburn-Murray Water managing director Pat Lennon.

Mr Lennon’s comments came in response to a Weekly Times article which said northern Victorian irrigators were paying 50 per cent more for water than irrigators across the border.

The article compared the ‘‘typical irrigator’s water bill’’ for an irrigator holding a 700Ml entitlement in the G-MW, Murrumbidgee and Coleambally irrigation areas.

The comparison found that a northern Victoria farmer would pay $36000 excluding drainage fees, while a Murrumbidgee irrigator would pay $20000 and a Coleambally irrigator would pay $18600 for similar operations.

But Mr Lennon said the comparison was not a fair one.

‘‘It isn’t really a ‘like for like’ comparison. It is very different in NSW,’’ he said.

‘‘G-MW has a much bigger customer base and service points. The management of dams and rivers and ... servicing the towns with bulk water.

‘‘Murrumbidgee and Coleambally don’t have these responsibilities.’’

Mr Lennon said the comparison was also not fair when it came to examining the staff for each of the three organisations.

‘‘From our point of view, Murrumbidgee and Coleambally are more closely aligned with the GMID (Goulburn Murray Irrigation District), where there’s 200 people working in that space rather than the 748 that was mentioned.

‘‘In a nutshell that’s the summary of why it’s not an apples and apples comparison.’’

VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson disagreed it was not a fair comparison and urged G-MW to break down all the fees that make up its tariff.

‘‘The only thing that wasn’t clear was I’m not sure whether the others contained drainage fees. It’s a fair dinkum comparison,’’ Mr Anderson said.

‘‘The tariff is made up of a storage fee, service fee, service point fee, infrastructure access fee and a delivery fee.

‘‘What we want, as customers, is for them to pull these apart. They can’t do a proper review of the tariff until they do that,’’ he said.

Mr Lennon said as part of the tariff and pricing review, G-MW was unpacking the infrastructure fee.

‘‘We realise this is an important topic for customers and we are working on transparency.’’