Annual Report

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.

Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Policy on Paradise Dam

The Queensland Government must continue to safeguard existing water entitlements, and the reliability of those entitlements, while investigating and remedying water supply constraints more broadly in the Bundaberg region.

Bundaberg CANEGROWERS calls on the Queensland Government to take the following actions to better manage water resources and mitigate the impacts of Paradise Dam remediation works on the productivity and profitability of primary producers:

  • Ensuring consistency for existing nominal allocation holders, including reliability.
  • Protecting and retaining nominal allocations within the Bundaberg Irrigation Area.
  • Delivering alternative water infrastructure including, but not limited to, weirs and irrigation pipelines to facilitate future growth and ensure water security for the future.
  • Identifying water constrained areas that require water security which will contribute to the development and economic growth of the region.
  • Remedying the impediments (reliability, infrastructure) affecting the long-term water utilisation of this region particularly with regards to capacity of the various parts of the distribution system that will help to facilitate development and economic growth.
  • Identifying and removing impediments to the efficient and effective operation of the local water market.


I acknowledge and thank Keith Pitt and Ken O’Dowd who are our Federal local members and David Batt, Colin Boyce and Stephen Bennett who represent our members at the State level for their support in 2019/20. We work hard in keeping them informed on the policies and factors that make our job as cane growers harder than it has to be. We also appreciate it when they go in to bat for us.

The 2019/20 financial year saw the retirement of Veronica Timm from her position of Manager-  Administration and Finance. Veronica performed this role diligently and with exceptional ability over the fifteen (15) years that she was with us. Veronica was instrumental in the establishment of Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group and Grain in Cane Cooperative and for establishing the governance and accounting systems for the suite of companies that we manage.  Her knowledge and experience will be missed.

Kelvin Griffin also resigned from his position as Director of Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Ltd at the end of the financial year.  Kelvin has been a valued and significant contributor to the sugar industry at the mill, district and state level for a long time and I thank him for his service.

Kelvin held many committee positions over his farming career including:

Millaquin Mill Suppliers’ Committee

Bundaberg District Cane Growers’ Executive

Bundaberg Cane Protection and Productivity Board

QM Cane Plant Production Pty Ltd

Bundaberg Water Committee

Cane Quality Management Committee

Bundaberg Irrigation Area Advisory Committee

Elected Queensland Sugar Grower Shareholder

Bundaberg CANEGROWERS Ltd

Bundaberg Sugar Services Limited

(former Chairman)

Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group


I also recognise our industry owned service providers, Bundaberg Sugar Services Limited, Bundaberg Regional Irrigators Group, QSL, Sugar Research Australia and Women in Sugar for their valued services and products.

I thank our members, our staff and my fellow Directors for their valued input in achieving a number of milestones over the 2019/20 financial year, many of which are reported in the following snapshot for the period.

Finally to those who have lost family and loved ones in the past year I offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences.


Allan Dingle

Chairman

To view Bundaberg CANEGROWER'S full Annual Report, click here.