Eureka Farm

89 Upper Scamander Road, Scamander, 7215

Tasmania Australia

Tel: 03-63725500



written for the Examiner Newpaper.             Wednesday, January 28, 2009




The Tasmanian government by a simple act of parliament has simply seized every council’s water services. These include water catchments, water treatment, water reticulation, sewerage reticulation and sewerage treatment. These functions have been major responsibilities for Councils for time immortal.

I would have expected by now to have heard outraged cries from the public or an enlightened journalist for what could possibly be the biggest scam to affect every ratepayer in this state. Maybe the woes of the world, the downward spiraling of the economy, the so-called reputable companies suddenly going bankrupt and everyone’s super suddenly disappearing has numbed us into believing that our government’s actions are in our best interests.

Sleek presentations were made to parliament and on their website to explain their actions. In essence Tasmania will be broken up into three service corporations with a fourth body for common services. The model decided upon by the Government is that each corporation is owned by the Councils whose boundaries it overlaps. The corporations as a whole have a set of directors as well as regional directors for each corporation. However there does not appear to be any local Council representation.

It has been stated that the purpose of these compulsory acquisitions is to improve the regulatory nature and infrastructure of the State’s water and sewerage facilities. Not a lot of detail has been given as to how these benefits are to be implemented. However an estimate has been made that over $1 billion will be required over the next decade for new water and sewerage infrastructure.

It has been stated that councils can expect returns from the start and that these will grow over the years as the infrastructure is improved.

These and other motherhood statements made in their reports to parliament warrant an independent assessment. Everyone knows that Tasmania’s population is just over 500,000 people. Most of these people live in Hobart, Launceston and the North West coastal towns such as Burnie and Devonport. Whilst these bigger towns are well provided with infrastructure there are many villages which have small populations and generally lack water and sewerage infrastructure. The smaller villages comprising less than 20% of the population are where most water supply infrastructure problems exist (i.e. on permanent boil water alerts).

Thus the Corporations have already stated that they will need $2000 for every man, woman and child over the next 10 years just to meet future infrastructure requirements. Whilst there is no doubt such improvements would always be welcomed this extra income stream will ultimately be derived from ratepayers. The Corporate viewpoint is that rate increases as outlined are inevitable and justifiable.

Whilst Council employees will be transferred to the new corporations this will not be the case for management. Generally speaking the existing management in the Councils had a more multi faceted job. Those that stay with Council will have their functionality severely reduced. Meanwhile the Corporations believe many new positions will be being created in the new structure. Engineering and management facilities will need to be created. Servicing the state of Tasmania from the Corporations will probably also mean that many in the workplace will be displaced with a loss of jobs in some rural areas.

I live in the Break O’Day Municipality in which the larger towns are St. Helens, Scamander, St. Marys and Fingal. These towns are well provided with water and sewerage infrastructure. Whilst smaller towns in the region lacked infrastructure our Council has been implementing a plan to extend these services. Our Council has been just as progressive as the Corporate model; but at the same time making best use of the ratepayer’s dollar. As examples, Scamander has a new sewerage reticulation scheme and treatment works with treated waters being used on the community golf course. St. Helens has also completely rebuilt its sewerage treatment works with a state of the art new technology. All water users are metered and the regulatory framework is already in place whereby the user pays a fixed and a consumption component for water usage.

Finally we need to ask ourselves what will happen to our councils. Now that their functionality has been so reduced how will they survive? Is this a ruse by Government to reduce local government in this state? In creating the Corporations the government has removed these assets from the control of the ratepayers. It has furthermore done this without bearing any responsibility for the viability of the new structure. The Councils although poorly represented in the management of the new structure could be placed in a position of unlimited liability in the event of mismanagement on behalf of the corporation.

No matter what happens, the Corporations are saying we can expect hefty increases for these services. They believe that this is completely justified by simply comparing our existing service charges with those of the mainland. There are many good reasons why we enjoy cheaper water services than the mainland. Our Councils for one should be congratulated for being efficient. Instead a Corporate body takes over these resources with the boast that charges will go up.

With councils we get what we can afford. With a service provider we have no control. They are not an elected body.

In conclusion the Corporate deal has not been thought out. Its tabled reports truly indicate that if it proceeds Tasmanians will not benefit from this deal created by bureaucrats.

Denis Buchanan