Feds blame council on water levy
THE Federal Government has blamed Townsville City Council for the new two-tier water pricing system which caused ratepayer outrage last year.
A long-awaited reply from Urban Water Security Branch assistant secretary Steve Costello to council received yesterday said council did not provide a pricing plan by June 30 last year, so the new arrangements did not result from any Commonwealth decision.
Mayor Les Tyrell yesterday hit back at the claim, saying the letter amounted to nothing more than nitpicking.
He said it was an attempt to avoid a definitive answer on whether council could go back to its old water system without jeopardising $ 40 million in federal subsidies.
The letter said the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Popul a t i o n a nd Communities could discuss pricing arrangements once council finally submitted its preferred pricing model as per funding agreements.
Townsville City Council Watch Group spokesman Paul Jacob, who organised a ratepayer water rally against council last year, said the path was now clear to revert to the old system.
The mayor insisted council could not reverse its decision until it had received a definite answer from the Federal Government, or risk putting t he $ 40 million worth of subsidies and any future grants in jeopardy.
‘‘ The Commonwealth’s response is a major disappointment. It doesn’t give us an answer, it just avoids giving any definitive advice or direction at all,’’ he said.
‘‘ I will be seeking an urgent meeting to get an answer.
‘‘ The Premier stated very clearly last year there was nothing stopping council returning to the former system and that is what we want clarified.’’
But in a letter sent to the Bulletin yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water Senator Don Farrell said the Federal Government was not responsible for the council’s two-tier system.
‘‘ Council . . . introduced its new pricing system in mid2010, without providing the agreed implementation plan, and without consulting the Australian Government,’’ Senator Farrell wrote.
‘‘ If council believes its current pricing system is not cost-effective, it is able to propose an alternative pricing model.’’
Mr Jacob said the federal government response was a ‘‘ great win for the ratepayers of Townsville’’.
‘‘ This council can revert to the old system tomorrow,’’ he said. ‘‘ They’ve exhausted the State Government ( as an excuse) and now they’ve exhausted the Federal Government.’’
Labor councillor Jenny Hill said the response proved ratepayers were being lied to.