Penalty query Keen eye on wa­ter re­view

Townsville Bulletin - - Inside Today - by Tony Rag­gatt tony. rag­gatt@ townsville­bul­letin . com. au

STATE and fed­eral gov­ern­ments are watch­ing and wait­ing on Townsv i l l e C i t y C o u n c i l ’ s plans to in­tro­duce new wa­ter pric­ing ar­range­ments.

Both bod­ies, how­ever, re­fused to be drawn on whether the coun­cil and ratepay­ers faced penal­ties for mov­ing back to a fixed charge sys­tem.

The prospect of penal­ties was a rea­son Mayor Les Tyrell had stalled for months on changes to the coun­cil’s con­tentious two-part tar­iff sys­tem in­tro­duced last year amid wide­spread com­mu­nity protest.

The coun­cil this week de­cided to act, an­nounc­ing it would re­vert to its pre­vi­ous dual charg­ing sys­tem op­tion for res­i­dents of a fixed price for an al­lo­ca­tion or a twopart tar­iff, in­clud­ing an a c c e s s a n d u s a g e charge.

S t a t e E n e r g y a n d Wa­ter Util­i­ties Min­is­ter Stephen Robert­son said t he d e c i s i o n b y t he coun­cil to al­low ratepay­ers to re­vert to the pre­vi­ous sys­tem was a ‘‘ fan­tas­tic re­sult’’ for res­i­dents.

A spokesman for Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Paul Lu­cas said Premier Anna Bligh’s an­nounce­ment last year that the coun­cil could re­vert to its for­mer pric­ing sys­tem su­per­seded a 2008 con­di­tion ap­plied t o s t a t e g r a n t s w o r t h $ 33 mil­lion for the coun­cil to im­ple­ment best prac­tice wa­ter pric­ing in­clud­ing con­sump­tion­based pric­ing.

A spokesman for fed­eral Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Sus­tain­abil­ity and Ur­ban Wa­ter Sen­a­tor Don Far­rell said nearly $ 40 mil­lion in fed­eral fund­ing ap­proved by the for­mer Howard gov­ern­ment in 2 0 0 6 h a d b e e n c o n - di­tional on the coun­cil pro­vid­ing the gov­ern­ment with a best prac­tice wa­ter pric­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion plan, con­sis­tent with the Na­tiona l Wa t e r I n i t i a t i v e pric­ing prin­ci­ples.

‘‘ The pur­pose of best prac­tice pric­ing is to en­cour­age efficient wa­ter use,’’ the spokesman said.

‘ ‘ T w o - p a r t t a r i f f s should be used un­less this is demon­strated not to be cost ef­fec­tive.’’

The spokesman said t he Fed­eral Gov­ernm e n t e x t e n d e d t h e time­line for pro­vi­sion of the pric­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion plan to June 30, 2 0 1 0 , as a r esult of changes to the scope of the coun­cil’s projects w h i c h w e r e b e i n g funded.

‘ ‘ T h e p r i c i n g i m - p l e m e n t a t i o n p l a n should out­line coun­cil’s ap­proach to adopt­ing best prac­tice pric­ing and the timetable for a c hi e v i ng t hi s , ’ ’ t he spokesman said.

‘‘ Coun­cil has not met this re­quire­ment of the fund­ing agree­ment.’’

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