Jetty licence backflip
Goulburn-Murray Water has pulled back on proposed fee increases to jetties and other foreshore structures with its new occupational licences following public and political pressure.
Residents will now have their licences extended for another year with only a CPI increase of about two per cent, dramatically lower than the original plan.
But foreshore property owners can only breathe easy in the short term.
A review of the fees will still take place after the November state poll, removing a thorny local issue from the looming Victorian election.
Both Water Minister Lisa Neville and her opposition counterpart Steph Ryan along with local Ovens Valley MP Tim McCurdy went on the record criticising the proposed increases which would have seen fees rise by up to 600 per cent.
Licence holders fees were set to soar from around $300 to more than $2000 in some instances, along with new charges being levied on those who previously did not require a ‘‘foreshore licence’’.
Foreshore property owners targeted with the new and increased fees expressed their outrage, with some forming action groups to combat the proposed rises.
GMW initially extended its consultation period for an additional four weeks in the face of the political and public backlash. More than 130 people provided feedback on the proposed fee structure taking advantage of drop-in meetings with GMW staff at Lake Eildon, Goulburn Weir and Yarrawonga.
Last week the legislated monopoly put out a press release stating the proposed new fees and fee increases would not be going ahead in 2018.
GMW plans to use the buffer period to map all foreshore structures for a new regime to be proposed in 2019, according to a statement.
GMW managing director Pat Lennon conceded his organisation could have tackled the process more effectively.
‘‘We acknowledge our initial customer engagement could have been better and we will be taking all feedback into account in our next steps. As we process the input received we will re-engage with customers on a new fee structure,’’ he said.
“The total revenue if the proposed fee structure had gone ahead was estimated at two hundred and forty thousand dollars per year allowing for some customers (estimated 20 per cent) opting to remove a structure or not apply for a licence.
“The total revenue would be less than the cost of administering foreshore structures for public safety and environmental protection, surveying for unauthorised structures, administrating differences between community members which sometimes arises, and general expenses.”
Mr Lennon denied political pressure was involved in the fee deferment.
“We were not under a political directive to defer the fee structure.
“Our customers told us so and we responded with additional consultation and we are now rethinking our future fee structure in light of that consultation. Further engagement with customers will follow.
“It is purely the reality of additional work from taking on board community feedback, including that we will now survey unlicensed structures before a new fee structure is established. There is a lot of work in that.”
GMW initially proposed to levy a new $300 fee on all property holders adjoining the region’s waterways, with an additional $295 charged for any ramp, jetty and/or slipway; extra fees were also proposed if jetties were larger than the standard size of 6 metres long and 2 meters wide.
In addition $100 fees were to be imposed on a range of landscaping elements and constructions including paths and steps, garden beds, paved entertainment areas, shade sails, underground sprinklers, power, building structures and vehicle access. For some licence holders the proposed fees quickly ballooned out, sparking the backlash.
GMW will consider all feedback received and work through next steps, which will include consideration of:
* Unlicensed structures – GMW will complete an extensive survey over the remainder of 2018 and into 2019 of all structures to now include those that are currently not licensed.
* Allowable structures – criteria for appropriate engineering standards, environmental standards and address user and public safety.
* Construction standards – specifically minimum and maximum sizes, and what is appropriate at individual storage environments.
* Management controls – which seek to allow the controlled development of public and private infrastructure on storages that we manage. Management controls also help to facilitate recreational use of the waterway where this does not impact on operational requirements of the water storage.
* Consideration of historical use and licensing – taking into account foreshore infrastructure which has been in place for some time.
* Licence terms including timeframes for licensing.