It was revealed to me last week by way of a letter from MidCoast Water, that there is to be a review by local water utilities to prepare Development Services Plans (DSPs) and the levy of Commercial Developer Charges (CDCs) in accordance the Water Management Act supply and sewerage services 2000.
As a helpful aid to developers, a 2016 Developer Charges Guideline was published in June 2016 and comes in a handy 129 page report largely wrapped up in unintelligible local government speak, interfaced with a multitude of acronyms.
The outcome of this review, the letter continues, may have an impact on the way developer contributions are calculated.
You can bet your life it will and the impact expected can only point to an upward escalation of costs for the Developer.
Why the cynicism?
A proposal had been announced earlier in December 2016, for the newly merged MidCoast Council to call to dissolve MidCoast Water in favour of the creation of a Water and Sewerage Utility business unit integrated within the County Council corridors of power.
John Turner (administrator of both councils) in a broadcast on the December 21 cited two important facts to support the proposal:- 1) There would be cost savings of around $3 million dollars annually by simple economics of scale that hopefully would be passed down to ratepayers!:- 2) The present debt of Mid Coast Water, which he described as “enormous”, would come under safe hands of MidCoast Council for administration.
So, from an impeccable source we learn that MidCoast Water has accumulated enormous debt and it has to be asked, why and how!
Bad management can be the only answer. I’ll provide an example. It is well known that there is an aquifer more or less under Minimbah, just to the south east of Nabiac. The aquifer came to the forefront over a plan to extract coal seam gas in the Gloucester area a few years ago.
After fears for associated contaminated leaks polluting the catchment area, the project was eventually abandoned, especially as this aquifer that was specifically purchased by MidCoast Water as an important other source of water supply, was considered to be particularly threatened.
Yet, eventually, when developing a supply pipeline under the Wallamba River from the aquifer to water storage facilities at the Darawank, a discovery was made that the water was already inherently unusable. Incredibly, there has been no testing by MidCoast Water before purchase and as a result special filters had to be incorporated in the scheme at huge unforeseen costs and project delays.
So, when being faced with the proposed escalation of costs for the Developers heralded by the review of local water utilities with the preparations of (DSPs) abd (CDCs) it is not unworthy to enquire where would this new influx of funding end up.
Because if it is simply the reduction of MidCoast Water debt, it is significant to recognise that Developers will be compelled to protect their own margins and pass on the costs and drive yet another nail in the coffin of the your first home buyers.
My determination therefore, is that in tandem with these proposed reviews we should demand a Public Inquiry into the true nature of the Finances, Funding and Debt of the Water Utilities, especially MidCoast Water.