Tasmania’s water battle

There was no mandate for the Tasmanian Government to take TasWater from Local Government control, owner councils said this week.

Tasmania is unique in Australia in that its 29 Local Governments own and operate the state’s water and sewerage utility.

The State Government passed legislation in the Lower House to gain control of TasWater late last year but was blocked in the Upper House by 10 votes to four.

Following its recent election win, the Government of Will Hodgman is claiming a mandate to seize control of the utility.

Chief Owners’ Representative of TasWater, Northern Midlands Mayor David Downie, said the election result did not change the facts and reasoning that resulted in the Legislative Council rejecting the takeover legislation late last year. “The politically desired takeover may have been listed discretely in some of the Liberals’ election material, but the party did not campaign on the issue because it knew it was a loser with the public.”

“As a result, the issue was not even considered by the electorate amidst the campaigning on the threat of minority government, our failing health system, poker machines, housing shortages, education needs and the like, so the Liberals cannot claim a mandate.”

To claim a mandate “in complete denial of the facts outlined in significant reports prepared by the Upper House Select Committee, the Auditor General, the Productivity Commission and Infrastructure Australia is simply not a credible approach.

“Rather than working on a second attempt to take control of TasWater, the Government should drop any repeat or revised takeover proposal and engage with councils and TasWater. Only in this way can a constructive working relationship be built between State and Local Government, and TasWater as well as between the State Government and the Upper House to achieve the best outcomes for Tasmania and Tasmanians.”