Feds blame coun­cil on wa­ter levy

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page - by Nathan Paull nathan. paull@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

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.

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