TAMWORTH water is about to become about 30 per cent more expensive over the next three years after the country’s competition watchdog endorsed State Water’s move to increase the burden on families and farmers.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) yesterday handed down a draft report signalling its approval for the rise in price of both high- and general-security water extracted from Chaffey Dam.
The interim ruling, which Tamworth Regional Council can choose to challenge, comes despite Peel Valley users already being slugged up to 17 times more for water than residents in other valleys.
Tamworth councillor James Treloar described the ACCC’s endorsement of State Water’s price hike as “absolutely frightening” for a city that was trying to grow its population and attract new businesses.
“We’ve already got the highest water charges in the state,” he said.
“If you look at high security water, which is what the council buys, we now pay 17 times what they pay in the Murray Valley and yet they get a 1 per cent decrease.
“It is so wrong, absolutely so wrong, that it’s embarrassing.
“This is the ACCC, this is the body that the public perceives to be the ethics of business.
“This is the body that says you have to compete on an equitable footing and yet they allow this to come out.
“We’re trying to compete to grow Tamworth and the rationale, the logic and the ethics of it is so wrong it’s frightening.”
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, who has organised a Bill Buster forum later this month to help residents manage their rising utility bills, said the pricing was unfair on Peel Valley water users.
“I’m obviously disappointed that any price increase is being considered and I’ll continue to work hard to get price equity,” he said.
“I’ll be taking it up with the government and the ACCC.”
Tamworth’s director of water enterprises, Bruce Logan, said yesterday’s finding was a prime example of why the council supported the introduction of a flat rate for water across the state.
He said the council would analyse the figures and consider its position regarding the charges, which will come into effect on July 1.
“It’s just wrong that you have to consider the price of water before you come to Tamworth,” he said.
While the added impost will certainly be felt by cash-strapped residents, irrigators and the council, it could have been even worse.
State Water had pushed for the ACCC to sanction a proposal to double the ratio of fixed charges compared to variable charges on each bill, meaning Tamworth residents would have paid 107 per cent more for their water regardless of usage.
ACCC chairman Rod Sims said although he recognised the challenges State Water faced dealing with volatility in its revenue stream year-to-year, irrigators especially were in no position to cop such a rise.