Despite outcries from some residents about the excessive water charges incurred during the bushfire crisis, MidCoast Council's (MCC) infrastructure and engineering services director, Rob Scott, has stood by council's policies regarding the matter.
At MCC's November 27 ordinary meeting, councillor Kathryn Bell moved a notice of motion that council's existing policy to provide up to 50 per cent off water consumption charges in the event of a concealed leak be modified to include residents whose water usage had significantly increased as a result of defending their homes against bushfires.
"Residential properties affected by a declared emergency situation are also eligible for a reduction in water charges under this policy for water use that was reasonably necessary to defend property or where damage to an internal water service (above or below ground) occurred, provided that non-metallic components (i.e. polyethylene) were not involved," the motion read.
The motion was voted in unopposed by all 10 of the councillors present at the meeting.
It's just impractical for council to cover everyone's costs associated with this because we were all in that boat.Rob Scott
In spite of that, some residents believed the amount of water that needed to be used to qualify for a reduction on their bill was too high.
Failford resident, Jeff Faulder, was one of those people.
His property on Blackbutt Drive was considered at risk during the week-long state of emergency declared in November.
In preparation for the potential fire threat, Mr Faulder set up drums of water at intervals around his property to fight spot fires, filled the gutters on his house with water, cleaned up around his property as best he could, and wet everything down.
But when he received a call from a friend in emergency services on Monday, November 11 telling him to leave before the following day's extreme fire conditions, he heeded his advice.
Thanks to the work of firefighters, all houses on Blackbutt Drive were spared when a bushfire ripped through Failford on November 12.
However, due to the water he had used in preparing for the potential threat, Mr Faulder received a water bill $143.12 dearer than his previous bill.
When he queried council to see if he was eligible for some kind of discount, he was advised he wasn't owing to the fact his quarterly consumption was less than double the average consumption for the same period over the past two years, which was one of the criteria of the MCC policy.
"A little bit of compassion might've went a long way," Mr Faulder said.
"They knew we were in the fire zone. I would've been happy to pay (the equivalent of) my last bill."
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But Mr Scott said such an option wasn't financially viable.
"It's just impractical for council to cover everyone's costs associated with this because we were all in that boat," he said.
"The reality is it's only going to cater for the extreme cases."
He said council had already outlaid considerable costs to reinstate water and repair the significant infrastructure damage caused by fires across the region - all without the help of state or federal funding.
"All the costs associated with water supply and sewer, both our operation and our repairs and reinstatement, was fully funded by ourselves," he said.
As someone who faced the fire threat himself, Mr Scott said it was also important for people to weigh up the outcome.
"I live in a bushfire-prone area and I prepared my house for fire in that time and personally I made that active decision and went, okay it costs what it costs," he said.
"I'm looking at my most significant investment and I'm prepared to throw $50 or $100 at water to make sure that investment is protected. I don't know that people are thinking about it that way."
Mr Scott confirmed a range of measures had been put in place by MCC for residents who'd lost their homes, including the waiving of all water charges during the quarterly period in which their homes were destroyed.
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