Ratepayers face water price hike

Opal Street Water Treatment Plant in Emerald.
Opal Street Water Treatment Plant in Emerald.

CENTRAL Highlands residents face water price hikes up to 40% by 2015 to part-pay for the proposed $34 million East Nogoa water treatment plant in Emerald.

The council's water utilities department copped an almighty spray on Wednesday as it was accused of excluding councillors from the decision-making process for the new facility to service the town's southern growth corridor.

Councillor Paul Bell turned the tap on a short tirade after water utilities manager Dan Pymble announced an internal review committee had selected successful tenders for legal, probity and design terms of reference.

"This is an absolute refusal of a council request," Cr Bell spluttered, adding that a resolution to support awarding the tenders "did not deserve to be supported".

"We discussed we wanted councillors drawn into this project from the start.

"Councillors need to have some input… This is a huge project, a huge spend… Deal us out of it and you're on your own."

A risk management analysis prepared by the council's former chief financial officer Andrew Brown presented a range of scenarios, including one that the existing Opal St water treatment plant would not be able to service Emerald's needs by December, 2013.

The East Nogoa facility cannot be operational before 2014.

Mr Brown's projections were based on consulting advice assuming Emerald's population continued to grow by 2.5% a year, an extra 150-200 blocks were developed annually and each new dwelling was occupied by 2.8 persons.

Without any government subsidies, water rates could soar to $1668 a year in 2014/15, based on usage of 800kL.

The council is finalising its 2012/13 budget, and Mr Pymble projected access charges could increase by 28.5% to $312 a year, with tier 1 and tier 2 charges rising about 17%.

"Currently, council's water services are priced on a cost recovery basis," Mr Pymble's report stated.

"The current water charges recover depreciation, operation and maintenance expenses, but do not recover a return on investment for council.

"In order to recover those costs, Full Cost Pricing indicates that council will need to raise its water charges by around 40% between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

"The Queensland Treasury Corporation recommends that council use the deferred FCP approach using the cash flow method to enable smaller, incremental prices increases over a period of time, rather than a significant immediate increase that may result in customer dissatisfaction."

Emerald's water pricing is currently 13% below that of neighbouring Central Queensland shires.

Cr Bell won support for his motion to have councillors involved in the tender evaluation process.

He will be joined by Mayor Peter Maguire and new term faces Charlie Brimblecombe and Peter Maundrell.

CQ water rates in 2010/11


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