Wa­ter meet­ing to be be­hind closed doors

Two-part tar­iff scheme de­ci­sion pend­ing

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - by Ryan Mathe­son ryan. mathe­son@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

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.

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