December 16, 2020
Fees for using the South Burnett’s standpipes will remain fixed at the current rate despite a plea by Mayor Brett Otto to his fellow Councillors to show compassion for some of the region’s most disadvantaged residents.
Standpipe charges will remain at $6 per kilolitre for potable water and $5 for non-potable water – the temporary figures set in September – after a vote at Wednesday’s South Burnett Regional Council meeting
Mayor Otto said Council’s decision to raise standpipe charges by 150 per cent in June – from $4 to $10 per kilolitre – was one he quickly realised was ill-advised.
He argued that reducing charges back to $4.50 per kl for portable water and $4 per kl for non-potable water would still mean a rise over the original price.
It would, however, show compassion for the circumstances standpipe users were facing, and would also be a welcome Christmas gift after what had been a very disruptive year.
His plea was supported by Crs Kathy Duff and Kirstie Schumacher, but opposed by Crs Gavin Jones, Scott Henschen, Roz Frohloff and Danita Potter.
Councillors raised the price from $4 to $10 per kilolitre in June after receiving a report from officers which suggested the difference between standpipe prices and prices paid by users connected to the water supply system was unjustifiably large.
The move provoked widespread community outrage, a petition and even a protest song.
Councillors lowered the price to $6 per kilolitre three months later.
Cr Schumacher said Councillors had agreed to temporarily reduce standpipe prices in September on the promise they would receive a more detailed report about water pricing at the December meeting they could base a firm decision on.
However, she said the information she had received was little different from the original information councillors were supplied in June, and she was unhappy about that.
Cr Frohloff said she was not connected to Nanango’s water supply so she used the standpipe system herself when necessary.
She said most other standpipe users she talked to were comfortable with the new prices, so she thought they should stay at the current level.
Cr Henschen noted that recent rains had probably provided some relief for residents who were dependent on water tanks and hopefully they would get more relief as the summer storm season rolled in.
In the end, the decision to keep standpipe prices at current levels was carried 4-3, with Crs Otto, Duff and Schumacher opposed.
Speaking after the meeting, Nanango resident Jane Erkens – who had organised the community petition against the original 150 per cent price rise – said she was unhappy with the latest decision.
“It is deeply disappointing that some Councillors elected by the community appear to have little regard for the welfare of the people they represent,” she said.
However, Mrs Erkens said she was pleased the increase had been reduced from its original $10 per kilolitre to $6 per kilolitre.
She said the credit for this belonged to everyone who had signed a petition opposing the initial June price rise.