Tasmanian voters offered up ‘sweetened’ TasWater deal

THE TASMANIAN Liberal Party has unveiled a “sweetened TasWater Plan” it claims will advantage councils and save households money.

If it retains government at the 3 March election, the party says it will ensure councils receive 50 percent of TasWater’s profits or $20 million (whichever is greater) indexed forever instead of until 2025.

“This will mean there is absolutely no reason for any Council to suggest they need to raise rates,” acting Treasurer Peter Gutwein said in a media release.

Under the plan, the Liberals will also impose an “immediate one-year freeze on prices” – saving the typical consumer “$110 a year on average over six years’’ – and invest an additional $300 million to accelerate upgrades of critical water and sewerage infrastructure around the state.

The Hodgman Government’s original proposal to take over the Local Government-owned TasWater was rejected by the Legislative Council last November.

Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) President Doug Chipman said the Liberals’ election plan falsely assumed the issue of council dividends was the sector’s only concern.

“Tasmanian councils are always mindful of cost-of-living pressures facing their communities, but we have to take a very long-term view,” he said.

“It is important that disproportionate costs are not shifted to future generations, particularly for short-term or minimal gains.”

TasWater chairman Miles Hampton said the revamped plan would saddle the state with more debt, for longer, by committing to pay at least $20 million to councils annually.

Referring to the Legislative Council’s rejection of the takeover bid, Mr Hampton said: “the government failed to provide the financial detail required to indicate that it could manage TasWater any better than the council owners and independent board.

“The artificially managed pricing structure and accelerated works program [of the updated plan] would rack up a state debt equivalent to $2675 for every TasWater customer, accruing interest for decades to come,” Mr Hampton said.