Time for a TasWater takeover

The Property Council of Australia today reiterated its long-held view that the State Government should take over the reins at TasWater.

Executive Director Brian Wightman said that the 2008 reforms should now be completed in full.

“The evolution of TasWater was because of ageing and neglected water and sewerage infrastructure which failed to meet the standards required by everyday Tasmanians. Raw sewage, inadequate drinking water, failing pump stations and a general lack of regulatory compliance were the legacy of an unfocussed local government sector who historically mismanaged this infrastructure.

“State Government ownership of TasWater must be the preferred option as the local government sector continues to struggle to grasp the enormity of the task that we face as a State.

“The shared ownership model for TasWater, put in place by amendments proposed in the Legislative Council clearly hasn’t worked.

“The issue that we face as a State regarding utility provision should be viewed simply and directly – it’s not good enough,” he said.

Mr Wightman also again raised the issue of the local government sector removing dividends from the business during a time of crisis.

“The Tasmanian Division of the Property Council of Australia continues to express dismay at TasWater paying dividends to 29 Councils across Tasmania.

“TasWater Corporate Plans have indicated that millions of dollars were paid in dividends. The Property Council firmly believes that any short-term profits should be re-invested into infrastructure development and not used to deliver “reward payments” to councils who failed to upkeep services over many years.

The Property Council also raised concerns that TasWater’s owners have historically not reinvested dividends and service charges into infrastructure even when they were clearly failing.

“Instead of reinvesting in water and sewerage infrastructure, rate-payers’ money was utilised to open more politically appealing infrastructure.

“In addition, the shareholder councils should also have reinvested capital to fix failing infrastructure,” he said.

Mr Wightman encouraged the Environment Protection Authority to enforce compliance.

“Many water treatment plants continue to operate even though they are clearly failing regulatory compliance.

“If the shoe was on the other foot, and the local government sector was placed in the same position, they would be charging penalties with interest and enforcing compliance through the courts,” he said.

Mr Wightman concluded that, with community support for action as strong as ever, the State Government should be bold and take over TasWater.

“It is time for bold action from the State Government to take control and be responsible for TasWater. Through ownership, they can establish and deliver a 10-year capital investment and infrastructure plan for the State, delivering a major economic catalyst. Delaying the inevitable takeover is just wasting time and opportunities.

“And in the North, if the State Government assumes control, the Launceston City Deal would provide a unique opportunity to strategically plan service delivery for the next generation,” he said.