$90 million in dividends should be returned
The Tamar River is one of the most talked about waterways in Australia. And while we are not the only community who experiences the complexities of acid sulphate soils, flocculation, water and sewerage infrastructure, and industrialisation which has impacted water flow, we do arrive at the same point each time an election is on the horizon – let’s fix the Tamar.
The Property Council of Australia is clear - we must bring all levels of Government together to reach consensus and a commitment to improvement. If we don’t, the Tamar River and all its challenges will continue to deliver an economic handbrake on Northern Tasmania’s future prosperity.
The Plan already exists – the Launceston Sewerage Improvement project which can be found at http://www.taswater.com.au/Community---Environment/Water---Sewerage-Improvement-Projects/LSIP
We now need the funds which will deliver job enabling infrastructure in construction and job creating infrastructure into the future.
It must be remembered that the creation of TasWater was as a result 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 was the legacy of the local government sector who historically managed the infrastructure.
The Tamar River, the East Coast and the North East are all examples of communities experiencing either sewerage system malfunctions or drinking water issues which directly impact upon health, tourism and business opportunities.
Historically, too many council municipalities, too many pump stations, a dual system, ageing pipes and poor planning processes have resulted in a disconnected spider web of infrastructure that neither delivers compliance nor creates confidence.
The Property Council of Australia has regular engagement with TasWater and we are pleased with their proactive responses and willingness to consider areas for improvement.
The continuation of the Headworks Holiday was seen as a pivotal moment for investors and developers in Tasmania, driving confidence and a willingness to engage in once marginal projects.
However, the Tasmanian Division of the Property Council of Australia continues to express dismay at TasWater paying dividends to shareholder councils.
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 the estimated profits should be re-invested into infrastructure development.
In fact, it beggars belief that a council owned company would pay such exorbitant dividends when every extra cent is desperately required to fix ageing and neglected infrastructure.
There exists a significant opportunity for TasWater to immediately invest additional funds in capital infrastructure in order to speed the process of improvement. Council dividends should be quarantined and combined with the aggregated revenue forecast and invested in infrastructure improvement of the highest priority.
The Property Council remains cognisant of the capital expenditure required to provide a Tamar River solution which will assist Launceston to become a bustling and vibrant University city, however as a start we must all be headed in the same direction.