A MAJOR commitment to fix major water and sewerage infrastructure issues in Tasmania has been applauded by business and Government.
TasWater unveiled a revised plan to spend $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to accelerate upgrades. It promised to fix water quality issues affecting 24 Tasmanian townships on boil water or public health alerts within the first two years.
The decision has generated polar responses – the State Government loudly applauded the action as long overdue while the 29 Tasmanian Councils that own the water corporation responded with disdain.
Local Government Association of Tasmania President Doug Chipman said councils, and therefor ratepayers, would be negatively affected by how TasWater had decided to pay for the plans – which includes freezing annual dividends to council at $20 million per year; effectively a total loss of more than $150 million during the upgrade timeline.
“The dividends received from TasWater were used by councils to provide the day-to-day services and infrastructure our communities need, while keeping rates at a sustainable level,” Mr Chipman said.
But the government and TasWater are frustrated by what they see as a lack of understanding and foresight by councils.
“The actions by the Board of TasWater, once again demonstrate why Tasmanians and their communities remain frustrated with years of inaction by local government in relation to the vital needs of this essential community infrastructure,” Treasurer Peter Gutwein said.
“What is very concerning is that the local government owners, by their comments, appear to have little understanding of the need identified by their own corporation to fund and build 21st century water and sewerage infrastructure.”
The revised plan does not include addressing the relocation of the Macquarie Point wastewater
treatment plant – deemed necessary to ensure future development at the prime waterfront site.
“Macquarie Point is an adequately functional sewage treatment plant and in that circumstance it is
the responsibility of others to fund the relocation,” TasWater Chair Miles Hampton said.
The plan does not include the issue of storm water on Launceston’s sewerage system, however $300 million will be spent upgrading or replacing seven wastewater treatment plants that discharge into the river.