Tap­ping into con­cerns

Weekend Courier - - Front Page - Bryce Luff

BALDIVIS tops the list of metropoli­tan suburbs with the most cus­tomers cut off by the Water Cor­po­ra­tion in 2016-17.

There were 41 cut-offs in Baldivis, with El­len­brook sec­ond with 39 cut-offs.

The Water Cor­po­ra­tion is plan­ning to spend about $300,000 over the next three years on a new pol­icy of­fi­cer tasked with pro­vid­ing in­sight into the hard­ships faced by strug­gling WA house­holds, in part­ner­ship with the WA Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vice (WACOSS).

WACOSS deputy chief ex­ec­u­tive Jen­nie Gray said ex­tra rep­re­sen­ta­tion for con­sumers could play an im­por­tant role in en­sur­ing “water ser­vices re­main af­ford­able and sus­tain­able”.

“The voice of con­sumers is essen­tial in de­vel­op­ing the sup­port, con­ces­sions and aware­ness needed to en­able vul­ner­a­ble con­sumers to en­gage in util­i­ties mar­kets,” she said.

“With­out it, the com­mu­nity and con­sumers can­not be as­sured that their in­ter­ests will be con­sid­ered or pro­tected.”

The part­ner­ship is part of a new ap­proach taken by the Water Cor­po­ra­tion when deal­ing with peo­ple be­hind on their bills.

Water Min­is­ter Dave Kelly said the new pro­ce­dures, tri­alled over the past year, played a key role in re­duc­ing the num­ber of WA house­holds de­nied ac­cess to free-flow­ing water be­cause of out­stand­ing bills.

The num­ber of cus­tomers who had their water re­duced to a flow of just 2.3 litres per minute, an amount enough to sus­tain life but not shower, in­creased from 2070 in 2014-15 to 2467 in 2016-17.

So far in 2017-18, 638 cus­tomers have had their water turned off.

“With these new pro­ce­dures in place, the num­ber of WA fam­i­lies whose water has been shut off has more than halved,” Mr Kelly said.

The cost of water was put up for de­bate in Novem­ber when an Eco­nomic Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity re­port sug­gested cus­tomers could be saved $400 per year if charges were www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d479670 re­set to re­flect the cost of pro­vid­ing the ser­vice.

Dr Gray said WACOSS would work with the Water Cor­po­ra­tion to en­sure it pro­vided as­sis­tance and did not push peo­ple into fur­ther hard­ship.

“De­fault­ing on bills for util­i­ties, such as water, is a com­mon sig­nal of peo­ple fac­ing hard­ship as they un­der­stand­ably pri­ori­tise keep­ing food on the table and pay­ing their rent to keep a roof over their heads,” she said.

Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Min­is­ter Si­mone McGurk said strug­gling cus­tomers could seek as­sis­tance un­der the Hard­ships Util­ity Grant Scheme. If you need help, visit www.wa­ter­cor­po­ra­tion.com.au.

Pic­ture: Jon Hew­son

Marc Kenly, Bruno Tro­lio, Hish Hun­mzy and Sam Labros­ciano get ready for the Big Brews Beach Party.

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