Tuesday, July 23, 2024

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HomeIssue 2Rocky Hill: More water, no charge

Rocky Hill: More water, no charge

p2314-spray-irrigationBy ERWIN CHLANDA
No charge is levied by the NT Government for water pumped from underground for the vineyard and other agricultural uses at Rocky Hill and Undoolya Station.
This was disclosed in an email received one and a half hours after posting a story on this  site reporting that there had been no reply to questions from us on this issue for a week.
The Department of Land Resource Management says “no charge is levied” for water taken from the Mereenie Aquifer System in Rocky Hill / Ooraminna Management Zone under Licence M541 granted to Rocky Hill Table Grapes Pty Ltd and Licence M557 granted to the Power and Water Corporation.
“The Rocky Hill licence does not differ from any other licence, in the fact that there is no charge to any of our licences,” says the statement.
“The licence granted to Rocky Hill Table Grapes Pty Ltd limits the extraction for use on ‘the grape block’ to 1,000ML per year with the other 2,125ML/yr to be taken from and used on an area to the south of  ‘the grape block’, east of the proposed future borefield for Alice Springs water supply and expected to draw on water of relatively poorer quality groundwater suitable for irrigation but marginal / unsuitable for potable water supply.”
The email also says: “Power and Water Corporation charge Alice Springs domestic consumers $1.9226/KL for water used plus $0.8029/day connection fee to recover the costs of water supply delivery from Roe Creek Management Zone. This includes water drawn from the Mereenie Aquifer System, the Pacoota Sandstone Aquifer and the Shannon/Goyder Formation Aquifer.”
The quantities are:-
KL = kilolitre (1 kilolitre is 1000 litres).
ML = Megalitre (1 megalitre is 1,000,000 litres).
This is the text of our report posted at 11am this morning: NT Government water authorities are stonewalling enquiries about the amounts, per unit, being charged a horticultural venture east of Alice Springs and consumers in town.
The venture is the Rocky Hill vineyard and onion plantation on Undoolya Station.
Their annual water allocation was increased from 400ML (mega litters) between 1996 and July 2007 to 1000ML between August 2007 and October 2015.
The annual allocation is now 3125ML a year until October 2025.
The extraction for the “reticulated potable water supply” of the town of Alice Springs in 2014/15 was 8659ML.
Rocky Hill now also has received permission to use spray irrigation (similar to the one pictured) instead of dripline.
A reader, Dalton Dupuy, commented on March 10 that in spray irrigation, 70% of the water is lost to evaporation.
“I believe in sustainable agriculture and the value of water in Central Australia and spray irrigation is wasteful and not sustainable,” Mr Dupuy says.


  1. It is clear that we underestimate the importance of getting water charges and allocation right.
    We know that we have limited ground water, and we are unclear how quickly and from where these aquifers will refill.
    It is therefore absolutely essential that we get this process right; take the time and include the public and experts in this important water policy process.
    It is disappointing that the Giles government is rushing this process through without adequate consultation and accountability.
    We should be prioritising sustainable practices for a brighter future for the NT.

  2. Erwin, you do not mention that the Hayes family had to drill the bore, equip the bore, pay for power to run they bore, maintain the the equipment down the hole as well as a lot of other huge costs.
    How much do rural residents have to pay for water if they have their own bore. I am a rural resident.

  3. Hi John: In that case the answer from the government may well be “no charges”.
    But no answer is not good enough.
    All the best, Erwin.

  4. I believe that they should be allocated an allowance of water. If they go over this allowance they then need to pay, just like the diary farmers, grape growers in SA and Victoria.
    Dairy farmers and grape / fruit growers in Australia, all have had to spend big monies in setting up their enterprises.
    Why make the Hayes family so special to avoid paying? Central Australia has limited water, hence should be monitored and paid for on a user pay system just like a town’s person paying water rates.
    Why should I then be paying water rates as a residential person? It is a natural resource?

  5. Fred the Philistine. The reason you pay for water is that the government supplies the water to you and do all maintenance etc. The Hayes family have to cover all costs themselves and I can tell you the costs are not cheap.
    If a station supplies their own power they are not expected to pay for it, nor should they. Every station in the country have to supply their own water for personal and stock use and are not expected to pay for it.
    The Hayes family have set up Rocky Hill at huge costs and should be allowed to get a return.

  6. @ John: I don’t agree. In SA and VIC it cost approx $20K an acre to set up a vineyard. Also, to put down a reasonable bore for central pivots costs around $200,000. This is from diary farmers, potato, onion, vegetable growers, vingerons etc, who all have to pay for when drawn from artesian water.
    Water pumped by windmill for general and stock is in a different aquifer and useage is minimal. The govvernment has had to cap a lot of the artesian bores as the water level is dropping.
    What if all the other stations decided to do the same? Then what? What is going to happen to the water levels if there is no control? What if other cattlemen want to put in central pivots to, say, grow lucerne for feed?

  7. Fred: The water we are talking about is not drawn from the artesian basin. Alice Springs is not over the basin.

  8. Cut the water off to Rocky Hill.
    It is not fair to Alice Springs residents who pay water tariff and land rates.
    In Victorian and SA horticultural farms are user pays for water. If we allow all the water to be drained for an unsustainable horticultural property like Rocky Hill the powers that be must be mad and the Centralians who let it happen must be mad also.
    Have a look at the local papers every now and then, you will see that the Hayes family are claiming they are not making profit there, any other local business that can’t make a profit closes.
    It would appear that the Hayes family should have stayed in their core business – cattle.


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