Tasmania's competitive advantage under threat: Alarm over water cost hike

09 June 2023

Two peak advocacy bodies in Tasmania have expressed concerns over proposals to raise water costs for businesses and primary producers, stating that such a move would have an impact the state's economy and business confidence.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers (TFGA), along with the Launceston Chamber of Commerce (LCC), are united in their belief that the current water pricing structure provides a crucial competitive edge.

Executive Officer of Launceston Chamber of Commerce William Cassidy said the Northern Tasmanian region is recognised by UNESCO as a city of gastronomy, which is primarily due to the way we produce food and the quality.

Mr Cassidy said, "We should leverage Tasmania's affordable water prices in food production to gain a competitive advantage. It is through Tasmania’s abundant natural water resources, investment in irrigation schemes and our inherent natural advantages that we have been able to unlock the full potential of our economy."

Hugh Christie, CEO of the TFGA, expressed his surprise at the suggestion of increasing water costs for Tasmanian farmers.

Mr Christie said, “All Tasmanian farmers who use water for irrigation make substantial investments in both infrastructure costs and annual operating costs that continue to put pressure on the cost of production.
"This is particularly relevant currently where we are seeing increased costs of production from input costs exposed to global market forces, combined with pressures from the cost-of-living impacts to the end consumer, making the task of feeding and clothing the world increasingly challenging every year.

"Access to affordable water, particularly when farmers are also often paying significant infrastructure and delivery costs for irrigation schemes, is not only critical to helping our farmers remain financially sustainable, but also ensuring the flow on benefits to the economy in the forms of jobs and broader economic activity from Tasmania’s investment in irrigation are maintained," he said.

Mr Christie also acknowledged the efforts of the Minister and her department to work collaboratively to ensure water management arrangements are appropriate.

“The efforts of the Minister and NRE Tasmania to ensure appropriate management of water through the Rural Water Use Strategy is an example of a collaborative approach to ensuring Tasmania continues to benefit from sustainable water resources into the future.

"This is resulting in parties from across the environmental, agricultural and water management sectors working together to ensure a balanced sustainable approach for the benefit of all Tasmanians,” he said.

We recognise the significance of water accessibility and affordability, and both peak advocacy bodies will aim to protect and nurture the state's competitive edge.