Farmers angry over water meter plan
FARMERS will be slugged up to $100,000 to install water meters they say will be measuring dry river beds under a new plan to manage the state's supplies.
The Courier-Mail can reveal the Palaszczuk Government wants water licence holders to install water meters and data loggers costing between $8000 and $100,000 to send live measurements to bureaucrats so they can check the state's water take.
Drought-hit farmers say the timing could not be worse and they simply can't afford to while they battle to survive.
A consultation paper confirms installation, maintenance and operating costs for mandatory data loggers and telemetry will be bourne by producers. It says real-time measurement will enable the department to hold people who unfairly take water beyond their entitlement to account and ensure water is allocated sustainably.
Thomas Brook, who manages his family's 580-acre dairy farm at Boyland, in the Scenic Rim, said it would cost about $11,000 to install equipment to monitor irrigation.
But the Albert River, which runs through his property, dried up eight months ago and the main dam is dry too.
"It's a waste of money when there's no water there to be able to pump," he said.
He said he could not afford a meter when feed cost 80 per cent of his income.
"Our water situation is very, very scarce," he said. "Our main dam is completely dry.
We tried for some underground water but that was unsuccessful.
"The dairy industry, with the milk prices, is not looking good. There's a very fine line that we're running."
Although the plan is backed by farm groups, there is anger over the timing and consultation.
AgForce chief executive Mike Guerin welcomed efforts to plan for the next drought, but said action shouldn't be taken until the current drought broke.
"Measures to protect water and to think about water management in a more strategic way is encouraged," he said.
"Insisting on people putting water meters in now while they're struggling to put food on the table - that's less ideal in terms of timing."
Mr Guerin said "an enormous percentage of rural producers" would be impacted but many of them still had no idea.
Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham said the policy stemmed from failed Newman government water metering and farmers had requested it.
Following questions from The Courier-Mail, Dr Lynham promised farmers would not be slugged "during this drought", but gave no timeframe.
"We understand the difficulties they are facing and we will not be adding to them," he said.
Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the Government didn't understand life in regional Queensland.
"Farmers are calling it the worst drought in living memory and they need more support, not another Labor tax," she said.
Opposition Natural Resources spokesman Dale Last said the LNP supported sustainable water use through accurate metering, but the timing would cruel farmers.
He encouraged them to speak out during consultation, which ends Friday.