PIAC today expressed concerns in response to the release of Sydney Water’s submission to IPART, in which it proposes to increase its charges for water to residential customers by about 30 per cent over four years.
Coming only two years after IPART approved higher Sydney Water charges for 2005-09, it would be a big hit for some households, said Mark Byrne, Senior Policy Officer. The public needs to know how low-income households in particular will be protected against these increases.
Byrne also pointed out that Nearly half of the price hike is to pay for the Kurnell desalination plant. Consumers should be aware that they will be paying at least $50 million a year to the plant’s operators for the next twenty years, even during times when there is enough water in Sydney’s dams for the plant not to be needed.
Another reason for the proposed price increase is that Sydney Water has been making less money because of the drought, so has become less financially viable. Consumers will have to pay more so Sydney Water can continue to provide a good dividend to the government. The Corporation therefore has mixed motives. The more water Sydney Water sells, the more money it makes for the government. Yet it is also supposed to encourage people to use less water. It doesn’t add up.
We also note that the Minister apparently stated yesterday that Sydney households will be paying an extra $2 per week for their water. This is the amount that Sydney Water is asking for, so the Minister’s admission doesn’t say much for the government’s commitment to letting the independent regulator do its job in considering submissions on the proposed price rise.
PIAC congratulates Sydney Water for proposing to charge big users more than average households, and for committing to powering the desalination plant from new renewable energy sources. However, said Byrne, let’s not forget that water is an essential service. Supplying it at an affordable cost should be the highest priority for Sydney Water and the government.
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169