Water meeting to be behind closed doors
Two-part tariff scheme decision pending
TOWNSVILLE ratepayers will be locked out of a special council meeting today to discuss the future of the city’s controversial water charges.
Mayor Les Tyrell yesterday stood firm on the decision to close the Commercial Business Meeting, citing potential budget implications.
Townsville City Council Watch Group chairman Jonathan Mehigan hit out at the decision labelling the closeddoor approach as a disgrace.
The council previously sought clarification from the Federal Government o n whether it could return to the old water-charging system without jeopardising more than $ 30 million in funding.
The funding was supposedly granted to the council on the provision it moved to a two-part tariff system.
The Federal Government provided a written reply last week stating council did not provide a pricing plan by June 30 last year, so the new arrangements did not result from any Commonwealth decision.
The letter said the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities could discuss pricing arrangements once council finally submitted its pre- ferred pricing model as per funding agreements.
The 10am meeting at council’s Walker St chambers could decide if the city will abolish the controversial two-part tariff water scheme, which has resulted in massive connection fees, and return to the previous model of a hybrid of the two.
Cr Tyrell said the council was bound to close the meeting under State Government legislation.
‘‘ All councils are pretty well restricted under the legislation covering local governments so we’re obliged to close the meeting,’’ he said. ‘‘ The letter we received from the Federal Government didn’t really provide an answer to our question so this meeting will give us an opportunity to discuss that and the submission we will make.’’
Mr Mehigan said the situation was on a downward spiral. ‘‘ The decision to restrict the public from being present at such an important meeting is highly questionable,’’ he said.
‘‘ I think the least thing the council could do is allow a representative to be present on behalf of the community.’’
The system introduced on July 1 last year was a twotariff pricing scheme for water, including an annual $ 454 connection fee and a 65c/ kL consumption charge.
Under the previous system, residents were charged an annual fee of $ 638 for 772kL of water. Under the new scheme, residents using an average 400kL of wat e r would pay $ 714 a year. If a resident used 772kL, they would pay more than $ 900.