State Government and The Mercury on the money – $90 in dividends should be returned

The Property Council today lauded the State Treasurer, the Hon Peter Gutwein MP and The Mercury editorial team for tackling head-on the gross underfunding of  water and sewerage infrastructure in Tasmania.

Executive Director Brian Wightman reminded Tasmanians of why we faced this predicament.

“It must be remembered that the creation of TasWater was as a result of council managed and controlled water and sewerage infrastructure which failed to meet public health and environmental standards prescribed by the State Government and required by everyday Tasmanians,” he said. 

Mr. Wightman praised TasWater for remaining proactive when considering investment in the State by way of headworks concessions.

“The continuation of the Headworks Holiday is pivotal for investors and developers in Tasmania, driving confidence and a willingness to engage in otherwise marginal projects.”

However, the Property Council of Australia continued to express dismay at TasWater being required, by shareholder councils, to pay dividends while not acknowledging the gross underinvestment in infrastructure that occurred over many years under their watch.

“The current TasWater Corporate Plan indicates that a total of $90M ($30M per year) will be paid in dividends during the current and next two financial years.  The Property Council firmly believes that councils must forego the dividends and invest all profits into reducing the infrastructure backlog.

“Council dividends should be quarantined and combined with the aggregated revenue forecast and invested in infrastructure improvement of the highest priority.”

The Property Council also challenged the local government sector to think more strategically rather than continually returning to the simplicity of an increased rates’ argument.  

“The question must be asked, why do councils continually threaten to punish ratepayers with rate increases to cover for their underinvestment in water and sewerage infrastructure? 

“If we can’t pay for the most basic services in the state then we can’t afford 29 councils,” Mr. Wightman said

Mr. Wightman also raised the issue of the future of TasWater suggesting that perhaps it was time to look at the ownership structure.

“It appears the local government sector cannot afford to own TasWater any longer which suggests it would be better transferred to State Government ownership.

“The time has arrived for the blame game and political posturing to cease, replaced by a bipartisan approach from the major political parties who put Tasmania and its ratepayers’ front and centre,” he concluded.