Jane Erkens collecting signatures at the Nanango Markets on Saturday morning (Photo: Supplied)

August 3, 2020

A petition protesting against a 150 per cent rise in the cost of standpipe water attracted more than 500 signatures at the Nanango Markets on Saturday morning.

Nanango Real Estate agent Jane Erkens, who was collecting the signatures, said the petition will be presented to the South Burnett Regional Council’s next meeting.

Jane said she was “overwhelmed” by the support the petition had received.

“I think this underlines how deeply unpopular this decision has been with a big slice of the local community,” she said.

“Apart from the 40 pages of signatures we received at the markets on Saturday, there is a second petition circulating in Blackbutt at the moment and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington has a copy as well.”

Jane said she was motivated to organise the petition because she saw the effect the price rise was having on local residents.

“Many people live in the South Burnett because it’s affordable,” Jane said.

“Yes, we don’t have public transport or a lot of the other facilities a big city has. But not everyone can afford to live in a big city, and that’s why people move here.

“They don’t have the capacity to absorb a sudden big rise in the cost of an essential service, especially when most of them have been pushed into using standpipes because their tanks and dams have run dry after years of drought.”

Jane said she was seeing the problems the July 1 increase was having on an almost daily basis.

“People are on struggle street and a lot of them are now having difficulties just meeting the essentials of life, like rent,” she said.

Jane said local shopkeepers were also feeling the effects of the price rise because it reduced the amount of money standpipe users had available to spend on other things.

“When Mayor Brett Otto came to speak to people about this on June 29 he said he realised the price rise was a mistake and apologised for it,” Jane said.

“He also promised to bring the matter back to Council so it could be reconsidered.

“But it wasn’t discussed at the July meeting, and I think it should have been.

“Our local Councillors Gavin Jones and Roz Frohloff voted for this price rise – in fact, every Councillor except Kathy Duff voted for it – and they need to recognise just how unpopular and misguided this decision is.

“I would hope they demand this issue be put back on the table for discussion.”

Jane said she understood some people thought standpipe water was too cheap compared with town water.

However, she thought they were failing to take into account the extra costs associated with it, such as transporting the water and pumping it into tanks.

“I think our Councillors have also forgotten that in normal times the standpipes get used a lot less than they are right now,” she said.

“If a price increase is really necessary – and I’m not convinced it is – it should at the very least be gradual and staged, not pushed through the roof in the middle of a drought.”

Jane said she was aware Council had received over $1 million for drought relief but had elected to spend the majority of it on their own projects.

“They could have used at least some of this money to subsidise the standpipes until the drought broke,” she said.

Jane has released a video on YouTube to publicise the petition.

Residents who would like to add their signatures can do so at Nanango Real Estate in Drayton Street.

A copy is also on the front counter at the Nanango Electorate Office in Alford Street, Kingaroy.

*  *  *

Mayor Brett Otto, Cr Frohloff and Cr Jones will be holding their next community consultation meetings at:

  • Nanango IGA on Monday, August 24 from 7:00am to 1:00pm
  • Blackbutt Bakery on Monday, August 31 from 7:00am to 1:00pm

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The Nanango Markets petition gathered more than 500 signatures equivalent to roughly one-sixth of Division 1’s ratepayers, on Saturday morning (Photo: Supplied)

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