Water price rise ‘not acceptable’
Tuesday, 23rd October, 2018
By Craig Brealey
The NSW Government has pledged to remove the cost of the Wentworth-Broken Hill pipeline from people’s water bills but they might still rise by $127 every year for the next four years, says the city’s mayor.
This was because Essential Energy was proposing to raise water bills by 9.1 per cent from next year to 2023 to cover its costs, said Councillor Darriea Turley.
The bill hike is contained in a submission the company has made to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).
IPART is taking submissions from the public about Essential Energy’s proposal and Mayor Turley encouraged everyone to have their say before submissions closed on October 30.
Mayor Turley said City Council was stating its opposition in a submission to IPART and had written to the Regional Water Minister, Niall Blair, last week seeking an assurance that the cost of the new pipeline is never passed on to residents.
When Mr Blair visited the city this month for the laying of the last sections of pipe, he moved to allay immediate concerns.
Mr Blair said the government would absorb the cost of the pipeline’s construction, operation and maintenance for the next four years.
After that, the price of water would be determined by IPART, he said.
“If the Minister can remove the cost of building the pipeline and its associated costs for four years, then he can remove them permanently,” said Mayor Turley who is also the Labor candidate for the seat of Barwon at the State elections in March.
“We are still making a submission to IPART regarding the costs because Essential Water has made a submission to cover their operating costs,” she said.
“This is not an acceptable increase at all.
“Broken Hill residents face a number of challenges on a daily basis as an isolated and low socio-economic community, and I would hate to see higher water prices added to the list of things with which we must contend.
“In fact, as a community we can’t even begin to plan or prepare for the costs that could be passed on at the end of this four-year period as we still haven’t received the business case that underpins the pipeline’s construction.”
Mayor Turley has again asked Mr Blair for the evidence of the need for the $467 million pipeline which he promised to give council at the start of the year.
City Council was this year given a brief summary of the business case but the full document has not been presented.
This month it was revealed that the pipeline was an essential part of the NSW Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s proposal to cut the Menindee Lakes by more than two thirds and buy out water licence holders on the Lower Darling.
The Government is also awaiting a report on its proposal to build another pipeline down the Lower Darling.
(Public submissions may be made on the IPART website where you will find Essential Energy’s submission).