As the West Tamar Council representative for Taswater I am very close to the current situation and it is probably an appropriate time to recount some of the facts.
The most important fact is that there are 29 councils involved and we are all being hit with the same criticism - when, in fact. West Tamar Council was one of the best run and viable water and sewerage operations in the State. Just look at the minimal amount of maintenance required on the West Tamar infrastrucure and you see that we handed over a very good system.
In 2008 West Tamar Council owned a water and sewerage system worth $55m. It was profitable and returned a small return to council - less than 1.5% - but enough to keep the system up to date. The State government then persuaded councils to put all their assets into a central body. The main, and quite valid, reason was that some councils were NOT looking after their assets - and by putting them all under one organisation, they would be better maintained. Also, being a "peak" body they would be able to access "rivers of gold" from Federal Government. Initially this was Ben Lomond Water and later the 3 regional bodies were merged into Taswater.
In return for giving away our assets we would receive a dividend to replace the income we had received in the past.. We ended up owning around 3% of the company.
Taswater has many issues to fix - that is agreed. Some of these issues are as a result of poor maintenance by SOME councils, a lot are due to a tightening of standards. In a large number of cases the boil water alerts are due to more stringent rules - it isn't always a case of equipment failure.
Water that was fine to drink 10 years ago is not Ok today.
There are 113 plants that require fixing - it will take time and money. Councils have agreed to REDUCE their distributions in order to facilitate a 10 year plan.
So,we have a plan, there is no crisis. The existing boil water alerts will be fixed by August 2018 (13 will be fixed by August 2017). The sewerage plants require a large amount of work and, as an engineer, I appreciate that it takes time to fix this vast problem - from design to approval of a plant can take 2 1/2 years - and there are 113 to do!
However, the Tasmanian State Goverment thinks it can fix all these problem in 5-6 years - BUT only if the State OWNS Taswater. Hence the latest situation that "we are actively considering taking ownership of Taswater"
If the State were to refund the asset value to councils then I'm sure councils would be happy - the treasurer has given no indication that they would do this - in fact the feeling is that we may receive NOTHING. If that is the case, it is not a takeover - it is theft.
Not only would we lose an asset but would would also lose the distribution - currently equivalent to just under $50 for every resident of WT. We are already doing a lot to improve our already efficient operation ,we are resource sharing and we are fast using up our options to save costs. If we lose our distribution or our assets we either have to cut services or increase rates.
The situation is very uncertain at the moment, there is no indication of how the process will work - I assume it will require approval from the Upper House and this could be a stumbling block - who knows!
I will keep you informed.
Unfortunately this wonderful hall is seriously underutilised and costing council a lot in maintenance - and there are significant electricity standing charges. Council has only had one hiring in the past 2 years. We don't want to lose this asset so we are advertising for anyone to take it over - maybe as a cafe, wine centre - or anything the gets some use for the building - we will be very generous on any rental terms.