Water board presents charging facts

By ALLAN McNEILallanm@gladstoneobserver.com.au

GLADSTONE Area Water Board (GAWB) yesterday moved to set the record straight, as debate regarding rising water costs continues to escalate.

A Queensland Competition Authority (QCA) draft report on GAWB's water pricing, has suggested a sharp rise in water costs for residents.

Debate among community members intensified last night at a community meeting on the issue. The Observer will provide full coverage on the meeting in tomorrow's edition.

GAWB chief executive Rod Hayes said while he understood community concern regarding the proposed cost increases, he felt there were some inaccuracies regarding the concerns.

'I understand it's a difficult issue and it's an issue that will cause real and genuine concern for people, all I'm seeking to do is to clarify how these issues have arisen and the process of how they'll move forward,' Mr Hayes said.

He said it was important that residents remembered that the draft report was put together by the QCA and not GAWB.

At the end of the day the price of water in the region was dependent upon the role of GAWB in being a commercial business, a decision made by the state government in 2000, he said.

Residents have shown concern regarding the proposed price rises, with numerous submissions being made.

One concern from residents was a belief that water costs were rising to subsidise industry, a concern that is unfounded, according to Mr Hayes.

'The prices for industry calculated by the QCA are based on exactly the same principles as apply to determining prices for councils at their specific points of supply,' Mr Hayes said.

He said the report provided indicative increases for local water costs, to give residents an idea of what they could pay if the increases were adopted.

'This is done so that customers can determine the possible price impacts of the recommended principles,'' Mr Hayes said. One price increase suggested was a more than 600 per cent increase for Mt Larcom residents.

However Mr Hayes said the increases were maximums and he did not expect Mt Larcom's water price to raise as dramatically as proposed in the draft report.

'Although I can't yet be sure, I don't think that is the price that they will be charged,'' he said.

Mr Hayes said at the end of the day, as a commercial business GAWB was required to return revenue just like any other.

Another reason appears to be the reduction in water being used by local residents, although Mr Hayes said this would make little difference to the overall price.

He said instead a larger contributor was a reduction in the amount of water able to be used from Awoonga Dam.

This came about as the result of a decision made by the department following the most recent drought, to ensure adequate water remains in the dam for supply.

The deferral of new industrial projects and the decreased demand from industries also made a difference, Mr Hayes said.

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