LETTER: Why I voted to (pretty much) double water charge
Letter to the Editor by Cr Bruce Devereaux
Increasing any fees, charges or rates in the current economic and drought environment is a tough call, let alone upping something by pretty much 100% which, when needed, is most likely at the worst possible time for the resident.
However, the decision to investigate this particular charge could not be overlooked simply because it would cause some backlash. Part of what I was voted in to do was to make tough decisions when necessary.
For me, after deliberating carefully on the information provided by council, it came down to four main points:
Firstly, our standpipe charge was so far below the comparative industry standard water trucks from other regions were driving into our region to fill their tankers, meaning even after taking into account the extra time and fuel it was still worth the effort for these businesses. That, to me, was very telling. The fact is we don’t have access to unlimited water in our region. We have an allocation, as do these other regions.
Secondly, this isn’t a cost which primary producers and our rural residential residents can’t avoid most of the time. The water fill stations are primarily there to top up/fill tanks when these residents run out due to a lack of rainfall or a faulty tank and not for ongoing continuous refills. This means they should be a relatively rare expense and not, as with town folk on town water, a six monthly one they can’t avoid. If, despite rain, a rural resident finds they’re continually needing to call in a water carrier then the issue isn’t the cost of each load of water but their water usage or water capture capacity.
Thirdly, it costs us to maintain these water fill stations both when they’re needed by a lot of rural residents or when they’re not. Unlike town folk, who pay a standard set amount with every rates notice to maintain the mains and systems - which the water fill stations, and therefore the rural residents who purchase water or have the ability to purchase water when things are so dry they run low on water, utilise. Plus, the water they’re taking from these water fill stations is treated and that cost is borne by this region’s residents on town water.
And the final thing which made me more comfortable to voting in favour of this increase was we managed to avoid increasing the base rates for primary producers this year because they were hit so monsterably hard in previous years. At least with the standpipe fee they have some control over avoiding it through water management or focusing on drought resistance with, as I mentioned, things like water capture capacity.
Part of my campaign platform was being able to explain every vote I made, even the unpopular ones. I hope this explanation clarifies my voting the way I did on this matter. If anyone would like to further discuss this my official councillor email is email@example.com