Wednesday, 16th October, 2013
The Chamber of Commerce (CoC) has warned that more than half the city’s businesses could be seriously threatened if there is a jump in water and sewerage costs.
The CoC has outlined its concerns in a number of recommendations to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) regarding the 2014 Review of Prices for Essential Energy’s Water and Sewerage Services in Broken Hill.
The document was prepared by the Chamber’s research officer, Dennis Roach, in consultation with members and the Board.
CoC president Ann Rogers said members believed that the subsidy provided by the NSW Government for the supply of water to Broken Hill must continue in order to support economic development and a healthy lifestyle.
“Our members have indicated to us that the NSW Government should recognise the economic benefit that Broken Hill returns to the people of
NSW through activities such as mining and tourism,” she said.
“In addition, given the remote and arid location of the city and the low socio-economic status of many of its residents, the NSW Government should continue to provide this subsidy.
“Broken Hill is an area of special need owing to the distance required to supply water and sewerage services.
“While the Chamber of Commerce recognises the continued need for infrastructure upgrades, infrastructure costs for upgrading water and sewerage facilities should be met from the general revenue generated and assistance from appropriate State and Commonwealth agencies.”
The Chamber also proposed that price increases for the provision of water and sewerage services should be linked to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
As Australia is experiencing a prolonged period of low inflation, the benefits of this should be passed to users and should not rise above the CPI, said Ms Rogers.
“The provision and usage of water in this city is a major factor in the continued existence and economic development of the region.
“A survey of local businesses affiliated with the Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce found that 58.6 per cent were users of water and sewerage services at a commercial and industrial level.
“Significant increases in the cost of providing these services would have a significant impact on the economic viability of these businesses.”
The CoC said a number of other factors would have to be taken into account when assessing the damage increased water and sewerage charges would incur. These include:
* The provision of high quality accommodation and tourist facilities such as restaurants, clubs, art galleries and museums, which are a major tourist attraction and a major source of revenue for local business.
* Quality shopping facilities
* The provision of general amenities within the city, including: swimming and recreational facilities, publicly owned parks and gardens and sporting facilities.
* Broken Hill has been a major mining centre and contributor to the wealth of Australia since the 1880s and continues to make a significant contribution to the National wealth. Broken Hill has been a lead mining centre since the late 19th century, and this has resulted in higher than average lead levels in local topsoil.
* Lead levels need to be minimised by regular watering of topsoil and the growth of adequate ground cover. Both of which require an adequate and reasonably priced domestic and commercial water supply.
* Broken Hill is located in an area of significant natural and diverse environment. The effective disposal of sewerage waste is a critical part of maintaining this unique environment.
IPART is expected to release the draft report on prices in March 2014, in which stakeholders will be able to further comment and the final report and prices will be set in June 2014 for the new financial year.