Lisa Cox August 01, 2012
Consumers are paying for Actew Water and the ACT government's failure to manage infrastructure projects, the Canberra Liberals say.
Leader Zed Seselja also says Actew's forecast of a 10 per cent water price hike to cover a revenue shortfall and capital works such as the Cotter Dam is ''a kick in the guts'' when the government-owned organisation recently spent millions of dollars on a rebranding exercise to become Actew Water.
But the ACT government said the Liberals response to the potential price rise showed a ''disturbing lack of understanding''of Actew's business model and plans for water security.''
Actew Water managing director Mark Sullivan has predicted the average Canberra household will be hit by an increase in water charges of at least 10 per cent next year as the organisation tries to recoup $268 million in lost revenue and pay new infrastructure.
The ICRC is conducting a review of water and sewerage services that will determine what prices Actew will charge from July 1 next year up until 2018.
Mr Seselja said the price hike was partly the result of the ''failure to manage big projects'' such as the dam, the budget for which has increased to $405 million.
''There's two aspects of the dam that have been a failure,'' he said.
''One was the delay in the decision to build it and one was the actual management of it.
''Infrastructure Canberra is the sort of structural change that will manage those projects better.''
Mr Seselja said the infrastructure body the Opposition would establish if elected would help to manage infrastructure projects by involving more ''individual experts in long term infrastructure planning''.
The Opposition Leader said it was also incumbent upon Actew to show it was managing its costs effectively.
''I don't think spending $2.5 million on a rebrand is a good way of doing that,'' he said.
Meanwhile, the Canberra Ratepayers' Association said reducing some taxes, such as the Water Abstraction Charge, would ease some of the price pain for Canberra households.
President Peter Jansen said Canberrans had done the right thing by conserving water during the drought and should be rewarded for that, rather than being asked to pay more because they had not used enough water.
''It's a vicious circle,'' he said.
''The problem I believe is Actew is ACT government owned and it demands its dividend out of Actew and so they charge more.''
But ACT Treasurer Andrew Barr said the Actew dividend was ''not excessive'' and was returned to the Canberra community through the funding of services such as hospitals and roads.
Mr Barr said the organisation's large infrastructure projects, including the dam, would deliver water security and prepare the territory for future droughts.
He said the water abstraction charge was also used to fund community services.
''The ACT government acknowledges that rising water bills are an issue for some households and has recently significantly increased concessions for low income households,'' he said.
Mr Sullivan said Actew Water's submission to the ICRC this week was the start of a long consultative process before a price determination was reached.
Actew's full submission is available on the ICRC website and a summary of the submission is available on the Actew website.