In the continuing saga over water rates, the Queensland Government has declared that the Gold Coast City Council can easily fund water rebates to households. AllConnex Water, the council-owned water distributor, stands to profit $94 million this year alone.
Mayor Ron Clarke announced that a $50 rebate will be provided to Gold Coast home owners due to “the pressure from the public” bringing forward the action.
However, according to Energy and Water Utilities Minister Stephen Robertson, the Council can afford $100 rebates to each residence and still have more than $70 million left over from the profits of AllConnex Water.
Gold Coast ratepayers are outraged as they have seen their water and sewerage bills rise by 20% in the last few months. Providing a $100 rebate to every residence on the Gold Coast would cost no more than $25 million.
Renters in particular have been the hardest hit as changes to the Residential Tenancies Act last year now allows landlords to pass on water bills to tenants. The new legislation is causing confusion in many unit and high-rise complexes where there is only one meter for the entire building. However, the new legislation only permits landlords to pass on the bills if the rental premises are individually metered, fitted with water-efficient devices and the tenancy agreement states that the tenant must pay for water consumption.
Gold Coast City councillors have added to the confusion by responding with several different answers when asked how they will help ratepayers get a better deal on water. Some councillors argued that responsibility should be given back to councils whilst others blamed State Government bulk water prices.
Premier Anna Bligh inadvertently added to the view that control should be given back to the council when she announced that the Government is selling bulk water at a $400 million dollar loss.
The $50 rebate however is not enough for most Gold Coasters. The first real win in the water debate came on the 14th of March when the Gold Coast City Council resolved to support the ratepayers and put pressure on AllConnex to rein in its spending and rampant charges.