IPART fields questions from the community on water and sewer

Central Coast water and sewage charges under review by IPART.

The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal has encouraged Central Coast residents to “stay engaged” with it about the water, sewerage and stormwater prices that Council will be allowed to charge from 2022.

About 30 people were on a zoom webinar held on August 24 to explain to the public how the process will unfold that will eventually lead to a price determination on the Coast’s water prices that will be charged from July 1, 2022.

The webinar included ten IPART staff members listening to 20 Coast residents who asked questions on behalf of their communities for an hour.

This reporter also listened in.

One participant, Mark from Davistown, talked about the poor water quality and smell, as well as sewage and drainage issues in the area.

Webinar host, Scott Chapman, said it was Mark’s type of feedback that was so important to the IPART process.

“Please stay engaged with the process,” he said, adding that IPART wanted to hear about these nuances in the system and it was the sort of detail that might not necessarily be in the Council’s submission.

He said IPART would determine prices based on the efficient costs of running the business – with the emphasis on efficient as opposed to actual costs.

This was known as the “notional revenue requirement”.

Council would be assessed on what costs it should be spending to deliver services, not on what it does spend.

Other speakers talked about water quality at Terrigal, and around the Tuggerah Lakes and ageing sewer structures and the potential for council to be under spending on future capital programs.

Jara Millward from LEAD Disability asked if IPART looked at the soci-economic disadvantages of the area and people’s ability to pay.

Chapman said IPART was required to look at the area’s ability to pay as one of the criteria.

The webinar is available for viewing on the IPART website.

The Coast has two opportunities to give feedback to IPART before a decision is made next May on new prices which would take effect from July 1, 2022.

The first public hearings will take place this October-November.

Meanwhile, the Council financial results for July of this year were tabled at the Council meeting later in the day on August 24.

CEO David Farmer talked about the losses in the water and sewer side of the operation and said it related back to the 2019 IPART water determination that saw a $39M loss in income for Council due to a decrease in the amount Council could charge in water rates.

He said the Council would need higher prices going forward.

At the same meeting, the Administrator agreed to put a new draft water security plan out on public exhibition for one month.

Merilyn Vale