The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) today expressed concern about rising water prices on the Central Coast and urged the NSW Government and Gosford and Wyong Councils to assist low-income households to maintain access to affordable water.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) draft water price determination paves the way for a 25 per cent increase in the average water bill for residents of Wyong and 19 per cent for Gosford. PIAC is concerned about the impact this will have on low-income and other disadvantaged residents of the region.
Senior Policy Officer with PIAC’s Energy + Water Consumers’ Advocacy Program (EWCAP), Mark Ludbrooke said, ‘The Central Coast is home to a large number of low-income residents, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet. Over the months ahead many more households will face hardship as economic growth stalls and unemployment increases. Now it seems likely these households will have to tighten their belts further to pay higher water bills’.
To assist low-income earners to cope with rising prices, PIAC urges the NSW Government to improve the pensioner water rebate.
‘Whilst the price of water increases, the pensioner water rebate remains unchanged at $174 per annum. This is entirely inadequate, especially compared with the $475 pensioner rebate available to Sydney Water customers. PIAC urges the NSW Government to calculate the rebate as a percentage of the bill and ensure it is commensurate with that available to Sydney Water customers,’ Mr Ludbrooke added.
PIAC also advocates that Gosford Council and Wyong Council improve their social programs to assist customers manage higher bills.
‘To ensure all residents have access to affordable water, Gosford and Wyong Councils must: provide vouchers to support customers in financial crisis; introduce water audits to assist households to reduce their water consumption; and utilise Centrepay so that residents can have a small amount of their Centrelink benefits automatically allocated to pay their water bills each fortnight. The two councils should also be under the Energy and Water Ombudsman’s authority so that consumers have access to a free and independent complaints service.’
For further information contact Mark Ludbrooke on 8898 6518 or 0433 331 158
MEDIA CONTACT: Dominic O’Grady, Media and Communications Officer,
Public Interest Advocacy Centre. Ph: 02 8898 6532 or 0400 110 169