Water costs force closure

By Country News

A much loved Wyuna business has been forced to close its doors, with the owner of the Big Cherry saying his business is no longer viable due to high water prices.

Owner Joe Campanelli said he made the ‘‘heartbreaking’’ decision about five weeks ago and was devastated to see his business close.

‘‘I just can’t afford it, I can’t afford to water my trees, the price is so high,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s just unsustainable. And all the poor dairy farmers, they’re going through it as well.’’

Water prices have continued to climb as dry conditions set in and NSW Murray irrigators receive zero general security allocation.

According to Waterpool Co-Op, water prices are currently sitting at $500/Ml but have recently climbed as high as $530/Ml.

Mr Campanelli said he had already removed his cherry trees from the property and now had to face what to do with the land.

He believed that a number of other farms would also be forced out of business as a result of water prices, but said he did not expect it to force any change in the water market or water ownership laws.

‘‘It’ll never change,’’ he said.

‘‘You shouldn’t have to pay that much for water. I remember when at most I would pay $100/Ml for water, that was still sustainable, but now the poor dairy farmers and people. I’m just devastated.’’

With water licence fees and other charges only adding further to his costs, Mr Campanelli said he had ‘‘held my head above water’’ for as long as he could, but he could no longer justify keeping the farm gate open.

The news was met with sadness from many when Mr Campanelli announced it on Facebook early last week, with more than 550 people sharing the post.

Victorian Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy told state parliament last week that water prices are a huge concern across the region.

‘‘Temporary irrigation water prices in northern Victoria are extremely high,’’ he said.

‘‘Farmers are telling me that the current system is not fair or sustainable and that unless things change there will be no such thing as an irrigated family farm.

‘‘They understand supply and demand but the infrastructure costs are making the cost of farming unaffordable.’’