Nanango real estate agent Jane Erkens presented a petition signed by 656 residents to the South Burnett Regional Council on Wednesday

August 20, 2020

A petition signed by 656 residents opposing a 150 per cent increase in standpipe water charges was presented to the South Burnett Regional Council at Wednesday’s Council meeting.

The principal petitioner was Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington but Nanango businesswoman Jane Erkens collected most of the signatures.

She gathered some at August’s Nanango Markets but the majority were from people who had heard about the petition and had come into her Drayton Street office to sign it.

Mrs Erkens was granted permission to address the Council meeting before the day’s business got under way.

She said the decision to raise standpipe prices hurt the most vulnerable people in the community, including pensioners, the elderly and the unemployed.

And the arguments used by Council to justify the price rise did not stand up to any close analysis.

One of them was that water was precious and needed to be conserved.

“Honestly, I really don’t think that anybody knows that more than somebody who lives on a small acreage block with no decent rain for many years and not enough money to order a load of water,” she said.

“So to put the price up thinking you’re going to stop people using water is wrong.

“The ones you’re punishing are the ones who can’t afford it.”

Another argument councillors had used to justify the price rise was that standpipe water was to be used for domestic purposes only.

Mrs Erkens said she had consulted the Queensland Water Act 2000 and found that it defined “domestic use” as water for consumption, cooking, toilets, showers and maintaining gardens of up to a quarter of a hectare.

“For those of you who don’t know, that’s 2500 square metres or about half an acre,” she said.

Another argument she had heard was that standpipe water was used to water animals.

This was also a furphy, because on small acre blocks that usually amounted to nothing more than a child’s pony, a house cow or a pair of sheep.

“We’re not talking a feedlot here,” Mrs Erkens said.

She reserved her most damning criticisms for the Council itself, reminding Councillors of several major water leaks in Nanango that Council took months to fix, and that former councils had encouraged the development of small acreage blocks because they wanted more rates income.

She also reminded councillors that Nanango’s bore water was not only plentiful but also very cheap, since the only treatment Council applied to it was chlorination.

It was so cheap, in fact, she thought it was highly likely Nanango residents were subsidising the water systems of the region’s other towns.

While she didn’t object to this type of cost-sharing, she thought it was unfair to penalise standpipe users with one of the steepest price rises Council had ever handed down.

At the end of her talk, Mrs Erkens thanked the Councillors for their attention.

Following normal procedure, councillors voted to receive the petition and then pass it on to CEO Mark Pitt for consideration.

* * *

Jane Erkens Addresses Council

* * *

Mayor Brett Otto thanked Mrs Erkens for speaking at the August Council meeting

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6 Responses to "Councillors Hear Water Plea"

  1. Rosemary Hansen  August 20, 2020

    Very disappointed with this decision, should not have to go through the process again. Who is running the council? The councillors or the CEO? If it is the CEO who makes the decisions, why are we paying all these councillors?

    I voted for the new council because I thought we needed new blood and new ideas, but if this is all they can come up with, I know what I will be doing next election.

    We have a dam, now dry after years of no good rain, buying at least 3 containers of water each week, we have a vege garden and gardens in which we have planted decorative trees, we do not water paddocks for grass for the horses, and our toilet is run from the water we buy. $12 to $30 per week is a big jump for pensioners.

    Not happy that the councillors who live in this area should even have brought this up. Shows that they are not interested in the people who live here…

  2. Curious  August 24, 2020

    Do not be too grouchy towards the poor councillors as in reality they are dealing with the real facts and figures of water issues.

    It does seem as if some people want a subsidisation and for a reduction to occur someone has to pay as the money doesn’t just grow on trees. Granted there are some people getting stand-pipe water that are poorly off but realisation must be made that there are some ratepayers that are also very poorly off and struggling to make ends meet and it seems as if there are some people who want others to pay towards their water costs.

    Some of the town water users who use water sparingly are also paying very dearly for their water; in fact one town-water user has told me that his cost is practically as much as what the stand-pipe users are objecting to. Reason being that the Council connection fees are very high and this added to the water use charge does get right up there!! Also add to this with the waste water council fees and it gets worse!!
    As for tank storage; The average small to medium house roof is 100 to 200 sq.m. and with an average rainfall to slightly less than less than average there is an ability to catch at least 4 real big poly tanks of water annually and that is house only and most places have a shed or two as well;

    I am not advocating one way or another and now it is up to the council to decide if they will subsidise or not and they do need to put forward real figures so the public can understand what is what as there are some of the public who are wont to go off for any reason to just make noise etc. and real data will cease all that.

  3. Curious  August 27, 2020

    The water charge is set to rise from $4.10 to $10 per kilolitre.

    Sounds real terrible, eh? Especially when a bunch of people think they are hard done by and also when there are some attention seekers wanting to stir things along big time. It is a case of the big and bad Council versus the poor and downtrodden … real easy to get stirrer traction here, eh?

    The proposed charges are lower than halfway between neighbouring Western Downs Regional Council at $17.90 per kl and Maranoa Regional Council at $14.20 per kl. and what it was set at prior. Seems probably fair to middling, doesn’t it?

    As my rate bill has just turned up, I decided to crunch figures and guess what? My own water cost is just a tiny whisker less than double the proposed new cost.

    The word subsidy easily springs to mind and it really does seem as if it would be nice if the petitioner (and some others) ran some figures and pulled their heads in.

  4. Rod Long  August 27, 2020

    Councillors say Western Downs charges $17.90/kl and Maranoa $14.20/kl but what they’ve forgotten to tell you is that Toowoomba charges $5.93/kl; Fraser Coast $4.95/kl; North Burnett $4.90/kl; Gympie $2.65/kl and Bundaberg $1.90/kl.

    They’ve also neglected to tell you Council officers estimate average standpipe usage is 52 to 78 kilolitres a year (ie $520 to $780 a year during normal times at $10/kl), which is very close to what users connected to town water systems pay, but without the convenience of water on demand. And during drought times like this, of course, average usage will be much higher.

    To add insult to injury, they’ve also neglected to tell you Council received more than $1 million for drought relief, but rather than assist blockies wrestling with their fourth year of drought they are spending the money on their own facilities plus a tiny amount on a handful of “drought relief” dinners for farmers.

    Subsidy? What subsidy? Cr Duff realised the deep injustice of asking residents on a second-rate water supply system to pay the same as townies instantly and voted against it.

  5. Jane Erkens  August 27, 2020

    Hey Curious, you get water to your tap whenever you turn it on. Compare it to buying a carton of beer from the bottle shop or a glass of beer at the bar. Cheaper to pick it up because they don’t have to serve you, your town water is served to your tap. Unlike those who in drought conditions have to drive through to pick it up.

  6. Jane Erkens  August 27, 2020

    Just a further comment to Curious, if you make it user pays the cost of the service. Are you aware that Nanango water is the cheapest in the region but the Nanango town residents are paying the same exorbitant price as other towns. If it was residents paying what it was costing, our Nanango water would be a lot cheaper and yours a lot dearer. I would rather be subsidising someone who is in drought than someone living in another town with a lot more services but I don’t get a choice.


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