Anger spreads over li­cence hike

Yarrawonga Chronicle - - Front Page - BY JARED LOUGHNAN

Goul­burn-Mur­ray Water’s (GMW) new fore­shore oc­cu­pa­tional li­cence has cre­ated angst not only in Yar­ra­wonga but in sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties in­clud­ing res­i­dents at Kir­wans Bridge.

The statu­tory author­ity has also been de­liv­ered a re­buke by the Vic­to­rian Water Min­is­ter Lisa Neville’s of­fice over pro­posed fee hikes to its fore­shore li­cenc­ing in­clud­ing those of jet­ties and boat ramps.

A spokesper­son for Lisa Neville said the min­is­ter’s of­fice was keep­ing a close watch on the is­sue amid a fierce com­mu­nity back­lash.

‘‘We’re con­cerned about these pro­posed price in­creases and their im­pact on li­cense hold­ers,’’ a spokesper­son told the Shep­par­ton News.

‘‘A con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod is still un­der way and we have asked the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, Land, Water and Plan­ning to work with GMW to bet­ter un­der­stand these pro­pos­als.

‘‘We won’t be sup­port­ing any such in­creases un­til we’re con­vinced they’re jus­ti­fied.’’

The re­buke came as Kir­wans Bridge com­mu­nity mem­bers ral­lied against the in­creases.

About 55 mem­bers of the small river­side ham­let met last Fri­day night.

Or­gan­iser Alan McLean said there was a mix­ture of anger and dis­be­lief in the room fol­low­ing many lo­cals re­ceiv­ing no­tices out­lin­ing the pro­posed dra­matic in­crease in charges for what GMW has dubbed a ‘‘fore­shore oc­cu­pa­tion li­cence’’.

GMW de­clined an in­vi­ta­tion to at­tend the meet­ing.

Li­cence hold­ers in Yar­ra­wonga have also been hit with pro­posed in­creases of more than 110% de­scribed by lo­cal Mem­ber for Ovens Val­ley Tim McCurdy as “out­ra­geous” and a “cash grab” by an author­ity that holds a mo­nop­oly over such li­cences.

In a let­ter sent to the Yar­ra­wonga Chron­i­cle by GMW’s Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Pat Len­non he states the pro­posed new li­cences are in­tended to pro­vide li­censees with “greater se­cu­rity”.

“The li­cence du­ra­tion has been dou­bled from 5 to 10 years and meets landowner re­quests for a greater va­ri­ety of struc­tures to be li­censed than tra­di­tional jet­ties and boat ramps,” Mr Len­non states in his let­ter.

“We be­lieve the pro­posed sys­tem is fairer as it means any per­son who has pri­vate in­fra­struc­ture on fore­shore land is li­cenced and al­lowed recre­ational use when it does not im­pact on op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments.”

Pre­vi­ously res­i­dents re­ceived a sin­gle li­cence fee for just their jetty and /or a boat ramp (slip­way) with mod­est CPI in­creases from year to year.

On top of the $300 an­nual fee this year, GMW will now be adding ad­di­tional charges for a large range of con­struc­tions.

Res­i­dents will also be charged ex­tra if their jetty is larger than the stan­dard size of 6 me­tres long and 2 me­ters wide.

What is more in­ter­est­ing charges of $100 will now also ap­ply for landscaping ele­ments in­clud­ing paths and steps, gar­den beds, paved en­ter­tain­ment ar­eas, shade sails, un­der­ground sprin­klers, power, build­ing struc­tures and ve­hi­cle ac­cess.

A fur­ther cat­e­gory dubbed ‘‘other’’ will at­tract a fee to be de­ter­mined by GMW.

Those res­i­dents with boat lifts, fenc­ing, fire pits and non-ap­proved struc­tures will be told to re­move them.

The sweep­ing changes to the li­cenc­ing and sub­se­quent charges came af­ter a re­view and in­spec­tions made by GMW in 2017.

GMW states in its let­ter to li­cence hold­ers on April 18 that the re­view in­cluded con­sul­ta­tion with new and ex­ist­ing cus­tomers and lo­cal ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees. It does not state who these lo­cal ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees were and how many cus­tomers they had con­sulted.

Kir­wans Bridge res­i­dent Peter Smyth re- ceived a no­tice in­form­ing him he will be charged more than $1000 for his 2018-19 fore­shore li­cence. In 2017-18 he was charged around $300.

‘‘I think they’re be­ing un­just,’’ Mr Smyth said.

‘‘I think that every­body that has a boat ramp or jetty are happy to pay what they’ve been pay­ing, but this in­crease is out­ra­geous.’’

Mr Smyth said GMW did noth­ing to main­tain his small stretch of river­bank and claimed they were charg­ing him fees to ef­fec­tively do their job.

‘‘We’ve been main­tain­ing the land which GMW haven’t been do­ing and are not go­ing to do. If it’s not main­tained it cre­ates the big­gest fire hazard go­ing, which they don’t try to rec­tify,’’ he said.

GMW has re­ceived al­most 50 feed­back sub­mis­sions as part of their con­sul­ta­tion process af­ter they wrote to more than 330 li­cence hold­ers last month propos­ing the new fee struc­ture. This con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod re­mains open un­til this Fri­day, May 18 but GMW have hinted they may ex­tend it.

“We are ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing com­mu­nity mem­bers and stake­hold­ers to make a sub­mis­sion, to help in­form our fi­nal de­ci­sion,” Mr Len­non said.

To pro­vide in­put fill out the on­line feed­back form at www.gmwa­ter.com.au/ex­ist­ing­fore­shore-li­cences. Al­ter­na­tively res­i­dents can or­gan­ise to meet with a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from GMW by call­ing 1800 013 357.

Jetty li­cence hold­ers in Yar­ra­wonga have been hit with in­creases of more than 110% on their an­nual fees.

GMW’s Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor, Pat Len­non says the pro­posed new li­cences are in­tended to pro­vide li­censees with greater se­cu­rity.

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