BIG CHANGES TO WATER CHARGES

WHITSUNDAY ratepayers can expect a big hike in water charges as the Council moves more towards a "user-pay" system.

Whitsunday Mayor Jennifer Whitney, has described this as a fairer system and says it is part of a legislative requirement.

Council's director of corporate services, Graham Jarvis, agrees and says the new pricing model is best practice in terms of water conservation.

However, former mayor Mike Brunker has entered into the debate, describing the new charges as a "huge cash grab".

Under the new system, all ratepayers will pay a water access charge of $496 per year and then pay 84 cents in the dollar for the first 365 kilolitres they consume in a year.

Those who use more than 365 kilolitres (one kl per day), will pay $1.44 for every kilolitre over 365 kilolitres.

Previously, there were different pricing models for the northern and southern areas of the council. Cr Whitney said this two part tariff system should have been implemented for the entire council area as soon as the Bowen and Whitsunday Councils amalgamated.

Mr Brunker says this is the biggest change in Bowen in modern rate-paying history and that some Bowen ratepayers will be paying twice as much for their water as they did previously as they had an allocation of 750kl per year.

Cr Whitney disagrees.

"On average, the Bowen ratepayers will be paying less of an increase than those in the former Whitsunday Council," she said.

Cr Whitney and Mr Jarvis say the new pricing model is a fairer system because the tiers will be the same for all areas of the council area.

Mr Brunker says it is not fair at all because Bowen receives less rainfall than Airlie each year.

He says this is a big change and should never have been considered without community consultation.

"Bowen and Collinsville are clearly disadvantaged because of the climate difference," he said.

Mr Jarvis said many of the people concerned about the change were low consumers of water and that some of those would actually see a reduction in their water bill.

He said Council was trying to set a water charge that would result in water services paying for themselves, rather than having the general rate subsidising the water services.

Mr Jarvis said the new charges would pay for the loan and operating charges of the new water treatment plants.

"Electricity alone is set to double in powering the new plants," he said.

Mr Jarvis said council would also be implementing a campaign on water conservation.


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