Chairmans' Report 2019/20
“.....During the 2019/20 financial year Bundaberg CANEGROWERS staff and directors continued our focus of being proudly member-focussed and farmer biased. The following is a snapshot of our efforts in providing representation, leadership and services while promoting unity in the interest of growers.”
The 2019/20 financial year started dry and unfortunately finished drier. I am told that it was the driest summer for 60 years.
In what I would describe as a growing season that we would rather forget, we also had to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately COVID-19 did not have that great an impact on us at a local level other than the inconvenience of the required protocols and some difficulty in getting parts for machinery.
Both mills started on 1 July with Millaquin crushing in six (6) day mode and Bingera in five (5) day mode. Bingera finished on 8 October and Millaquin on 21 October.
The season crop estimate at the start of the crushing in 2019 was 1,225,000 tonnes with the final tonnage being 1,095,130 tonnes. The mills performed reasonably well and the reduction to five-day mode at Bingera had minimal impact.
We were very active on briefing all levels of government on a range of issues including reef regulations, electricity and water pricing as well as letting the council know of the impact that the valuation increases could have on rural producers.
We met with the Council and senior staff before they set their budget and we advised them that the recent Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy valuations had seen some farm land areas increase in site valuations in excess of 300 per cent across the district and, unless there was some recognition of capacity to pay in the rating system, many of our cane farmers would be hit with unsustainable rate increases should the existing formula be retained.
Many of the Councillors including the Mayor, pledged to address this issue in their election material before the last election.
Given the reliance on agriculture for the region’s economy and future prosperity, we suggested that the total rate dollars collected from Category 9 Agricultural Land remain at 2019 levels due to the global economic uncertainty.
Despite undertakings from Mr Dempsey and many of his Councillors to limit rates to around CPI, in an act of bastardry, all of the Councillors voted unanimously to ignore our requests and their pre-election promises and the majority of Category 9 Agricultural Land received an unjustified increase, with the biggest increase of up to 235%. The Council will try and collect around $9,500,000 from Category 9 Agricultural Land in the upcoming financial year.
This is not over!
Bundaberg CANEGROWERS strongly opposed the reef regulations for the Burnett Mary catchment.
There is absolutely no environmental justification to further regulate the area and, given the downside economic consequences to an area that relies so heavily on agriculture for jobs, it is inconceivable that the Government pressed on with the introduction of these regulations.
Dr Peter Ridd presented his ideas on reef science on 12 August 2019 at the Moncrieff in Bundaberg. It was well attended with over 300 people listening to his presentation.
This too is not over!
Bundaberg CANEGROWERS along with other areas across the state continued the campaign to get these reef regulations wound back to what they were before the amendment passed last year.
I am very pleased with both the public and private support we received from many people and organisations in the region. A particular highlight has been the Burnett Mary Regional Group who have consistently backed us on the deferment of any increased regulations until a thorough audit of the science is undertaken.
BMRG has stated publicly and often that “.. given that the minimum water quality standards are currently being surpassed by the region’s canegrowers, that implementation of the regulations be delayed in the Burnett and Southern Catchments until a thorough audit of the science is conducted.”
The 2019/20 financial year also brought us the news that the Queensland Government and SunWater had received advice that the Paradise Dam wall needed to be lowered up to five (5) metres and that they would be acting on that advice.
We met with Minister Lynham and highlighted the value of water to the agricultural sector and the wellbeing and development of the Bundaberg Irrigation Area and stressed that the Queensland Government must protect the nominal allocations and ensure that the water allocation security is maintained.
Along with CANEGROWERS Isis, Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers and the Bundaberg Regional Council we commissioned a firm of consulting economists to look at the Economic Costs of Inaction on Paradise Dam. That report identified the potential opportunity costs of not having Paradise on the wider farming community.
To view Bundaberg CANEGROWER'S full Annual Report, click here.