Councillor Kathy Duff urged her fellow councillors to show compassion toward the community at Christmas time by reducing the price of standpipe water. File Photo.
Councillor Kathy Duff urged her fellow councillors to show compassion toward the community at Christmas time by reducing the price of standpipe water. File Photo.

‘Water is gold’: Motion to drop standpipe prices rejected

SOUTH Burnett Regional Council again stood divided on the contentious standpipe price debacle following a recent review, settling on the original $6 per kilolitre for potable water and $5 for non potable water.

Leading on from the September 2020 General Meeting, which saw a 110 per cent price increase (from $4.10 to $10) snapback to $6 for potable water and $5 for non potable water, council addressed three new recommendations:

  1. The price of $6 per kilolitre for water from Council standpipes for the 2020/21 financial year and reconsider standpipe charges in setting Fees and Charges for future years.
  2. Continue the use of the direct debit and credit Machine Payment Methodology; and
  3. Consider installing a new standpipe in Murgon to replace the current manual dispensing unit as part of the 2021/22 budget.

Standing by her original declaration that standpipe prices should be lowered and readdressed at a more suitable time, Councillor Kathy Duff put forward an amended motion that:

  1. The potable standpipe water be $4.50 and the non-potable be $4 until the South Burnett Drought Declaration is lifted and after that the charges be reviewed in line with all fees and charges.
  2. Continue the use of the direct debit and credit Machine Payment Methodology.

“Our council area is still in drought and we have been since March 2017,” Cr Duff said.

“The standpipe users are some of our most vulnerable residents. It’s Christmas time, we’ve had a tough year, and I think it’s time for council to show some compassion for those who use the standpipe.”

Standing in support of Cr Duff’s motion, Cr Kirstie Schumacher said the report provided to councillors following the September meeting, reviewing stand pump pricing, has simply “regurgitated” much of the same information provided in June and September “to justify the original recommendation of $10/kl.

“This report includes limited new information and it’s my view that it didn’t deliver on council’s intent, which was to understand, differentiate and control commercial and private use,” Cr Schumacher said.

“In September the report stated that standpipes were designed to support rural landholders in times of need. I still believe this is our time of need, and the fact that we’ve recorded the highest usage during the 2019/2020 financial year, in four times the usage of previous years, absolutely verifies this.”

In response to Cr Schumacher, Cr Danita Potter said while she admits the jarring price hike which saw costs rise to $10, was a “wrong”, she said most residents have agreed $6 is a fair price.

Likewise, Cr Scott Henschen said while it is true we are in a “horrific drought”, the “water is gold” and every person should be doing their part to preserve our most precious resource.

“At this point in time, 60 per cent of Queensland is drought declared,” Mayor Brett Otto said.

“I think it’s important of us as a council to show the required compassion and sensitivity here, coming into Christmas, where we have a number of people who are effectively the most vulnerable in our community.”

The resolution was defeated four to three, with Cr Roz Frohloff, Cr Gavin Jones, Cr Danita Potter and Cr Scott Henschen voting against.

Addressing the original recommendation, Cr Danita Potter said she would not be opposed to keeping the price of potable water at $6, but reducing the price of non-potable water back to $5, as per the September vote.

The motion was passed four the three, with Cr Kirstie Schumacher, Cr Kathy Duff and Mayor Brett Otto voting against.

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