CHAIRMAN'S REPORT 2020/21
“..... During the 2020/21 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 Board and staff of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS are committed to providing representation, leadership, services and promoting unity in the interest of our growers.
This is my first annual report to our members as Chairman of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS. I took on this role in April 2021 and would like to thank Allan Dingle for his leadership of the Board. This organisation achieves a lot on behalf of our members and Allan’s leadership over the past 14 years has been critical to achieving real outcomes.
At the end of the 2020 season, Bundaberg Sugar made the decision to close Bingera Mill. A series of droughts, low sugar prices and competing land use all contributed to a reduction in cane supply and whilst this was inevitable in economic terms it was also a very bleak day for the industry. Millaquin has performed very credibly this season with only a few issues.
All three (3) levels of government can have a profound impact on what we do as an organisation and also on how we individually operate our farms. During the year, I was able to meet with the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Premier to discuss issues of importance and concern.
These issues of importance and concern generally fell into the following categories of water, energy, rates, environmental regulation, sugar marketing and pricing options.
We have very good relationships with the State and Federal members in the electorates where our members live.
Colin Boyce (Callide), Stephen Bennett (Burnett) and Tom Smith (Bundaberg) at a state level have all listened to our requests and have been more than helpful. The same can be said for Keith Pitt (Hinkler) and Ken O’Dowd (Flynn) and on behalf of the Board I wish to acknowledge their assistance and genuine attempts to make things better for our members.
Unfortunately, I cannot be as positive about the interactions with our Mayor and Councillors who, with the exception of Councillor Greg Barnes and perhaps Councillor May Mitchell, appear to have all but abandoned the principles that underpin the local government act and their responsibilities to ratepayers, particularly those in Rating Category 9.
The local government principles are:
1. Transparent and effective processes, and decision-making in the public interest;
2. sustainable development and management of assets and infrastructure, and delivery of effective services;
3. democratic representation, social inclusion and meaningful community engagement;
4. good governance of, and by, local government; and
5. ethical and legal behaviour of councillors, local government employees and councillor advisors.
I would like to thank and acknowledge Tom Marland (AgForce), Joe Lyons (BFVG), Peter McLennan (CANEGROWERS Isis) and our own Dean Cayley, for forming and operating the consortium to highlight the inequity that the Mayor and Councillors forced upon the primary producers of this area when we were given rate increases of up to 235%.
The consortium is still active and we will not stop until we achieve the stated goal that Category 9 ratepayers are refunded the rate rises that they suffered from the 2020/2021 budget such that the increase is no more than CPI and that going forward the Council adheres to the ‘Guideline on the equity and fairness in rating Queensland local governments’.
Our regions inclusion into the reef regulations is unjustifiable. We are outside of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and because of the southerly movement of water in the East Australian Current, runoff water from our catchments cannot impact the reef and the islands of the southern section of the Great Barrier Reef. The prevailing currents move in the opposite direction.
We have hosted visits by the GBRMPA and our State MP’s to demonstrate the evidence on this. We have also presented the evidence at Parliamentary hearings, senate enquiries and other forums and I think we are starting to get some traction.
Along with many others we have been very insistent that to ensure the wellbeing and development of the Bundaberg Irrigation Area, the Queensland Government must protect the nominal allocations associated with Paradise Dam and ensure that the water allocation security is maintained. We have direct representation on the Community Reference Group as well as the Paradise Dam Industry Forum. There appears to be some positive news on the horizon and recent comments from SunWater engineers and our local Bundaberg MP would indicate that the complete restoration of the wall is being actively considered.
Energy and in particular electricity is a major input to our farming systems. In 2015 we called for the State Government to reduce electricity tariffs as Gazetted for the 2015/16 year by 33%. We also asked for a food and fibre volume based tariff with a ceiling of no more than 16 cents/kwh (8 cents for the network component of the bill and 8 cents for the retail) to be available to irrigators.
It has taken some time and collaboration with a wide number of groups including ERGON energy network and I am very pleased to acknowledge that these targets have been achieved.
It did take six (6) years to get this outcome and it should be a signal to anyone interested that we will not give up on issues that unfairly impact our members.
I would like to thank and acknowledge Bundaberg Sugar Services Limited, Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group, QSL, Sugar Research Australia and Women in Sugar for their valued services and products.
We have strong mutually beneficial and professional relationships with all of our industry service providers including Bundaberg Sugar. We collaborate where we can but when necessary recognise that our members come first in every instance.
We have exceptional staff who know their jobs and aren’t afraid to insist on a fair go for our members and on behalf of the Board and you, thank them for achieving a number of outcomes over the 2020/21 financial year, many of which are included in the following report for the period.
Finally, to those who have lost family and loved ones in the past year, I offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences.
To view Bundaberg CANEGROWER'S full Annual Report, click here.