Both sides claim report’s backing
THE State Government and TasWater have both claimed a Tasmanian Audit Office report shows why they should be in charge of the state’s water and sewerage utility.
Auditor-General Rod Whitehead yesterday tabled a report in the Legislative Council from the state’s publicsector watchdog’s investigation into whether the reforms of water and sewerage in Tasmania in 2009 and 2013 by the then-state governments had achieved their intended targets.
In 2009, the management of water and sewerage assets in the state was passed from local councils to three regional corporations — Southern Water, Cradle Mountain Water and Ben Lomond Water — but in 2013 these were replaced by the single TasWater entity.
Mr Whitehead’s report said: THE reforms in water and sewerage had delivered improved public health benefits regarding water quality. BUT the expected environmental ones were not realised especially when it came to the compliance of wastewater treatment plants. TASWATER had not taken advantage of its ability to draw down on its debt to speed up this infrastructure improvement.
With the release of the report coming as the politically charged debate over which organisation would be the right custodian of the water and sewerage utility continues, Mr Whitehead said he expected both sides to use the report to push their pitches.
His expectations soon became reality.
Treasurer Peter Gutwein said the report confirmed the Government’s long-running argument that TasWater had not used its balance sheet to increase infrastructure investment.
“The only reason why TasWater won’t use their balance sheet to invest more in infrastructure is because of a failure in governance and accountability that allows TasWater’s owners, the 29 councils of Tasmania, to prioritise dividends and their own returns over investing in infrastructure,” he said.
TasWater chairman Miles Hampton said the report showed TasWater had ticked every single box except those regarding wastewater treatment plants, but progress was being made. “It confirms the substantial amount of work that has been done … that TasWater was the right reform in the first place,” he said.