CHW defends bills

BALLARAT homeowners are being charged the second highest water and sewerage bills in the state, according to a report by the Essential Services Commission.

The Performance Report released by the ESC last week shows that only Gippsland residents incurred higher average household bills than Ballarat in 2011-12.

But Central Highlands Water, the authority in charge of Ballarat’s water supply, defended its costing, saying the climate had played a role in the process.

“The region was one of the most heavily impacted by drought and the water corporation spent more than $300 million on upgrades to secure the water supply and ensure we could deliver a sustainable and ongoing water supply to our 15 supply systems across the region,” CHW managing director Paul O’Donohue said.

Despite consumption being one of the lowest out of the 16 catchment regions in the report, CHW households were charged an average of $1096 in 2011-12, more than $200 above the state average.

In a separate summary paper on regional business water prices released by the ESC last month, it was revealed CHW are proposing to further increase household water costs by 8.5 per cent above the CPI in 2013-14, giving customers the second highest price hike of all regional catchment management authorities.

The following years will  see a return to CPI levels, according to the report.

Ballarat Residents and Ratepayers Association president Denis Bateman said the organisation had received complaints from frustrated residents about water rates, with many unhappy about the methods used to calculate charges.

But as an individual, Mr Bateman said he hadn’t noticed his water bills going up significantly.

“I don’t find them to be a huge burden, but I understand no one likes paying rates,” he said.

“With the projects that Central Highlands Water has got scheduled, the one-off increase I personally accept as a reasonable proposition.”

ESC chief executive officer David Heeps said all costing had to be approved by the ESC.

The ESC is seeking submissions on current CHW proposals, which are available on the ESC and CHW websites. Submissions are due by January 25 and should be emailed to water@esc.vic.gov.au.

evan.schuurman@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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