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Squeeze on water prices

Wednesday, 25th June, 2014

IPART Chairman Peter Boxall when he was in Broken Hill in November for the public forum on water pricing. IPART Chairman Peter Boxall when he was in Broken Hill in November for the public forum on water pricing.

By Emily Roberts

Broken Hill residents will pay a smaller increase in the price of water after authorites took note of what the public told them at a meeting held in the city last year.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has released its final report on the maximum prices that Essential Energy may charge for water, sewerage and other services from July 1 this year to June 30, 2018.

Typical annual water and sewerage bills for residential houses and flats using 300 kilolitres of water per year will rise by 15.3 per cent, or four per cent more than inflation, over the next four years.

The biggest increase will be from July 1 when the typical bill will rise by $88, or $50 more than inflation.

Bills will rise in line with inflation over the remaining three years, resulting in a total increase in the typical bill of $191 over the four years, including inflation.

IPART Chairman Peter Boxall said that many people at the public forum late last year, and those who lodged submissions, considered Essential Energy’s proposal too high and likely to discourage water consumption to the detriment of community health and amenity.

“Consistent with the draft determination, we have removed Tier 2 usage prices and set all water usage prices in Broken Hill at the current Tier 1 price,” Dr Boxall said.

The prices in the final decision are slightly higher than those proposed in the draft determination.

Dr Boxall said this was the result of further analysis by IPART and consideration of concerns raised by Essential Energy and other stakeholders as part of the review process.

“The price increase is a little bit more than 

the draft but well below what Essential Energy asked for,” Dr Boxall said.

“Affordability has definitely been an issue. To address this, we have delayed some of Essential Energy’s capital programs and their operational expenditure.”

“This has resulted in a fair price.”

Manager Far West and Water Operations, Guy Chick, said Essential Water remained focused on providing an ongoing cycle of infrastructure maintenance and renewal to cost-effectively maintain the water infrastructure.

This comes despite the reductions determined by IPART for future investment in the business.

“In line with recommendations, we have started work on identifying a range of potential efficiencies across the business that are required to help contain service delivery costs,” Mr Chick said.

Roger Edwards, who worked for 25 years with the former BH Water Board, the latter part as its chief executive, said the removal of the Tier 2 was good news.

“I agree that was needed to stop the degradation of residents’ gardens,” he said.

“I’m particularly pleased it was staying a single tier.”

Mr Edwards said the price rise was reasonable.

“Given what Essential Energy were asking for, you can’t be too unhappy with that,” he said. “It has extensive infrastructure.”

But Broken Hill Residents Association president Russell Gilmour said he was a little disappointed.

“I am a little bit disappointed they didn’t go with the original draft report,” he said. “But the result is a lot better than anticipated.”

Mr Gilmour said locals will face initial pressure with the price rise.

“But after that the price rise will go up with inflation

“It will be manageable over time - it will just be hard with other price increases.”

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