Let­ters to the edi­tor

Whitsunday Times - - WHITSUNDAY VIEWS -

Poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion

APART from the Coun­cil's poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion record re­gard­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 'new re­gional ap­proach to wa­ter charges', of even greater con­cern is the lack of com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion un­der­taken as part of the process.

Prin­ci­ple 5 of the National Wa­ter Ini­tia­tive Pric­ing Prin­ci­ples states that "ur­ban wa­ter tar­iffs should be set us­ing a trans­par­ent method­ol­ogy, through a process which seeks and takes into ac­count pub­lic comment, or which is sub­ject to pub­lic scru­tiny." Un­like other re­gions where two-part tar­iff sys­tems for wa­ter have been im­ple­mented, no such com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion was un­der­taken by the WRC.

One ex­am­ple of where the cur­rent sys­tem is flawed is as fol­lows. A busi­ness in the Cat­e­gory 17 (Com­mer­cial and In­dus­trial A) with a prop­erty val­u­a­tion of less than $1.5m will be charged $1271 per me­ter for the ac­cess charge. A sim­i­lar busi­ness with a prop­erty val­u­a­tion of greater than $1.5m and there­fore in Cat­e­gory 18 (Com­mer­cial and In­dus­trial B) with the same size me­ter con­nec­tion will be charged $7944 per me­ter.

The coun­cil's Wa­ter Fact Sheet states that the higher ac­cess charges are set to re­flect the higher po­ten­tial of those properties to draw wa­ter from the coun­cil's sys­tem. If that is the case, the fixed wa­ter tar­iff for full ser­vice cus­tomers should not have any­thing to do with the prop­erty val­u­a­tion but rather should be based on the size of a prop­erty’s me­tered wa­ter con­nec­tion. This ap­proach is used in many other ju­ris­dic­tions around Aus­tralia and is ac­cepted as best prac­tice.

Clearly some busi­nesses will suf­fer as a re­sult of a rushed and poorly con­ceived process and will be up for ex­ces­sive and un­war­ranted charges. This is on top of the re­gion-wide 16% nett in­crease in gen­eral rates, 14% nett in­crease in garbage and sew­er­age, and the var­i­ous in­creases in wa­ter con­sump­tion charges, de­pend­ing on which part of the re­gion you are lo­cated.

The WRC is now play­ing catchup, fi­nally an­nounc­ing the dates for the meet­ings to ex­plain the con­tent WRC bud­get two months af­ter it was handed down and al­most half way through the cur­rent wa­ter pe­riod.

Chris Mon­sour BOWEN Wa­ter con­cerns

BOWEN ratepay­ers should ap­pre­ci­ate that a potable wa­ter sup­ply in­volves pump­ing wa­ter from the Peter Faust dam aquifer to Bowen through a 65km line at great elec­tri­cal cost. Not to men­tion as­so­ci­ated stor­age, fil­tra­tion, treat­ment, de­liv­ery, me­ter­ing and main­te­nance costs. The Whit­sun­day com­mu­nity could not af­ford to con­tinue to have ratepay­ers in Bowen con­sum­ing 750kL per year at the old price tar­iffs.

The in­trin­sic costs of sup­ply­ing wa­ter to Bowen are sim­ply not cov­ered. The Brunker ad­min­is­tra­tion took on too much debt in one hit, in­stead of stag­ing all ma­jor in­fra­struc­ture works.

Bowen res­i­dents should be en­cour­aged to con­serve wa­ter, or oth­er­wise face the real risk that the cur­rent in­fra­struc­ture will not meet de­mand.

There is ca­pac­ity for Bowen res­i­dents to con­serve wa­ter con­sump­tion with­out im­pact­ing sig­nif­i­cantly on their life­style choices. Ratepay­ers are in­vited to re­fer to the State Govern­ment's Water­wise web­site for tools and tips on how to con­serve wa­ter.

A ratepayer us­ing 402kL per year will pay al­most the same un­der the 2013/14 price as they would if the Orig­i­nal Fund­ing Model were ap­plied. How­ever, if that ratepayer re­duced con­sump­tion by 20% they could re­duce the bill by $90. That is the key point, un­der a “user-pay” model ratepay­ers can de­ter­mine how much to pay by their own wa­ter con­sump­tion.

There is no doubt wa­ter charges in Bowen have in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly - but com­par­a­tively Bowen ratepay­ers are com­ing off a lower base in the price for wa­ter. The pro­posal by some in Bowen that the Proser­pine and Air­lie Beach com­mu­ni­ties should con­tinue to sub­si­dize wa­ter ser­vices in Bowen does not equate to the con­sti­tu­tion of the Whit­sun­day Ratepay­ers As­so­ci­a­tion that rates should be fair and eq­ui­table.

The Bowen com­mu­nity uses a large amount of wa­ter, not all of which can be at­trib­uted to cli­mate. The aver­age of 436kL or mean of 402kL sug­gests that the al­lo­ca­tion of 750kL is ex­ces­sive. Some­one has to pay for the cost of pro­vid­ing that wa­ter. Coun­cil can­not con­tinue adding to the debt. The full cost of wa­ter ser­vices must be re­cov­ered, which is what the 2013/14 bud­get for Coun­cil aims to do on a fair and eq­ui­table ba­sis.


THANK you to all past and present Whit­sun­day res­i­dents who con­trib­uted their pho­tos, their film, their mu­sic and their mem­o­ries to the “Air­lie Beach – The Good Old Days” DVD which was launched re­cently.

The big­gest thank you how­ever is to the tal­ented pho­tog­ra­pher / film maker Adrian Con­nor. He be­came in­spired by the his­tory and the peo­ple of the Whit­sun­days and took a sim­ple pho­tog­ra­phy job at the June re­union to an amaz­ing and un­ex­pected level.

Adrian spent many, many vol­un­tary hours col­lat­ing the di­verse con­tri­bu­tions into an in­ter­est­ing, co­he­sive and heart warm­ing DVD which has cap­tured the essence of the early days of Air­lie Beach. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing photo DVD also con­tains both re­union and his­tor­i­cal im­ages.

From the June re­union and from the DVD launch has come a very strong de­sire to get to­gether a group of in­ter­ested lo­cals with the time, the en­ergy and the skills to share a pro­ject of gath­er­ing up and ar­chiv­ing the fast dis­ap­pear­ing im­ages and sto­ries of our Whit­sun­day his­tory. Oral his­tory is just one es­sen­tial part of this pro­ject.

Our mag­nif­i­cent re­gional mu­seum in Proser­pine is very sup­port­ive of this idea and it is hoped that they will be the repos­i­tory of the trea­sures that will be col­lected.

To ob­tain copies of the “Air­lie Beach – The Good Old Days” DVD and photo DVD and to ex­press your in­ter­est in help­ing to pre­serve our Whit­sun­day his­tory, please con­tact Pam Pole on 4946 1271 or 0448 870 482 or by email at pam­pole@hot­mail.com.


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