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.

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