Latest council vote reveals little support for TasWater government takeover

Posted 30 May 2017

HobartAn overwhelming majority of Tasmanian councils have voted against State Government plans to take ownership of TasWater

At a special general meeting of the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT), 23 councils voted against the takeover, four voted in support, and two abstained. 

LGAT Acting President and Circular Head Council Mayor Daryl Quilliam said most councils did not believe a takeover was necessary. 

“The majority of Tasmanian councils agreed today that there is no water and sewerage crisis and no advantage in changing ownership of TasWater from local government to state government,” he said. 

“We are not acting in self-interest. We are acting in the interests of the community.”

The vote came after councils heard from TasWater Chairman Miles Hampton and State Treasurer Peter Gutwein, who made his case in an earlier presentation.

Commenting on the outcome of the vote, Gutwein said it showed councils would prefer “higher water prices and a slower infrastructure fix”.

“It is telling that a number of councils did not support the motion, and I make the point that if the councils can’t even agree on whether they should own TasWater how can they possibly effectively run the company?” he asked. 

“The State Government is resolute in our commitment to takeover TasWater so that we can ensure prices are lower, services are better and infrastructure is fixed faster.”

Rather than transfer ownership, the councils are calling on the State Government to work with TasWater to implement the utility's existing 10-year plan.

Quilliam said councils were concerned about the likely long-term impacts on debt levels and the viability of TasWater under the State Government’s model. 

“Councils do not support the use of important funds from consolidated revenue being used when there is already a fully funded plan in place,” Quilliam said.

“They also said there was insufficient information from the government to back its claims to be a ‘cheaper and quicker fix'. 

“We say, ‘Where is the evidence? Where is the business case?’.” 

The councils will now mount a campaign against the takeover, which will include the lobbying of Tasmania's 11 independent upper house parliamentarians, whose support is needed for a change in ownership.