Unitywater public meeting at The J. CEO Jon Black meets with residents last year.
Unitywater public meeting at The J. CEO Jon Black meets with residents last year. Contributed

Water-wise users will be rewarded

UNITYWATER boss Jon Black said Noosa residents should be able to cash in on cheaper tariff charges after June 2013, for water-wise home usage.

Mr Black said in Tewantin last week the water distributor was constrained by the inflexibility of the State Government's imposed two year 3.56% charging cap to make a user-pays type system work.

He said at the same time the government had imposed a 25% increase in bulk water to Coast residents - which people had to think of as the price of water security.

"The biggest cost to Unitywater is that we buy the bulk water off the State Government now," Mr Black said.

Mr Black said the solid feedback it had received among consumer groups was they wanted the variable rate of water to go up in price, in line with volume usage, and the fixed rate charge of water to come down.

"So, that those (customers) who controlled their water consumption would get the benefit," Mr Black said.

A more user-pays system is advocated by Sunshine Coast ratepayer group Organisation of Sunshine Coast Associations of Residents. Its president Ian Christensen was at the public meeting where Mr Black outlined some ambitious aims.

"The (Unitywater) board has agreed that we will progress tariff reform in 2013," Mr Black said.

"Unitywater will have to take the volume risk. Therefore, if we predict the customers are going to use 180 litres of water per volume per day and they don't, we will have revenue problems," he said.

In Unitywater's distribution area of Moreton Bay council and the Sunshine Coast council, the Moreton customers are on a fixed quarterly water charge of $10.13, while the Coast cops a $37.47 fixed charge.

In July 2011, a Moreton Bay customer's bulk water charge rose from $94.95 a quarter to $110.60 with 16.5% State Government increase, while the Coast was hit with a 25% bulk water hike from $74.52 to $93.33 a quarter.

This hefty state charge was part of what Mr Black called the "$7 billion water security investment" for the south-east Queensland water grid.

"The State Government did make a decision not to take a commercial rate of return (on the bulk water charges).

"They are only getting the cost of capital return on that investment - they've taken the Traveston Crossing Dam component out of that.

"When you look on the Water Commission's website, you see the bulk water price over the nett couple of years is still going up. But it's not going up quite as steeply because they are now not going ahead with that dam."

Mr Black said the Queensland Competition Authority set a "maximum allowable revenue" level for Unitywater, which determined a ceiling on charges for its delivery of water and sewerage services.

"I'm pleased to say that Unitywater is under-recovering - we could have actually charged more," he said.

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