THE gaping chasm between what Tamworth residents fork out for essential goods and services compared to their Sydney counterparts looks set to widen even further.
Average household gas bills could skyrocket by up to $205 a year within months if a proposed 20 per cent hike makes it past the state’s independent pricing regulator.
Analysis by The Leader has confirmed the awful truth – that locals pay substantially more than their city cousins for gas, electricity, fuel and, potentially in the coming years, water.
Tamworth households pay about 12 per cent more for gas, 7 per cent more for fuel and a staggering 25 per cent more for electricity than Sydneysiders. Origin Energy, which supplies gas to Tamworth, has requested the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal approves a 20 per cent rise in residential gas bills.
But locals such as Calala residents Peter and Taylah Shields, already struggling to keep pace with utility bills, have called on the massive price hikes to stop.
Mr and Mrs Shields, who have five children aged 13 and under – including eight-month-old twin girls – to feed, clothe and care for, pay more than $4000 a year just for electricity.
It is an impost necessitating significant sacrifices and they feel frustrated at being further away than ever from a goal of buying a seven-seat car to transport their large brood.
“It’s a killer,” Mrs Shields, 23, said. “I work full-time to pay to support the kids and pay for daycare and all that sort of stuff.
“Everything’s dearer. They say Australia is becoming a big, obese country, but we can’t afford to put our kids in sport and we really can’t afford to eat healthily.
“Ideally you’d buy fruit and vegies, but you go to a takeaway shop and buy $5 worth of chips and a loaf of bread and you can feed the whole family.”
Salvation Army Major David Rogerson said the Tamworth branch was experiencing a “constant increase” in locals seeking help to manage their utility bills.
He said the organisation handed out food, phone and electricity vouchers in an attempt to offset some of the exhorbitant costs and ease pressure on families.
“I don’t know where it is going to end,” he said. “If (the rises continue) then the government will have to make some serious changes or there will be a lot of people just spending all their money on electricity and leaving nothing for food.”