Wednesday, 2 March 2011

There's something fishy in Townsville's water

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Today's report in The Townsville Bulletin on the federal Government's response to Townsville City Council's request for clarification about it's powers to change local water pricing answers one question but raises some serious others.

Clearly from the federal Department's response (right), that power rests with the Council.

Equally clear but far more revealing, the Council has failed (consistently since 30 June last year) to meet federal guideline requirements for them to submit a pricing implementation plan.  Of course, why TCC failed to submit their plan is totally unclear.

The other thing that is very unclear to me is why exactly the CEO of a Council would write to an Assistant Secretary over a matter of some significant financial and political import. 

These days, Assistant Secretaries are between 4 and 6 on Departmental food chains. So why would a CEO write to No.4 in the opposite structure?

Would Clive Palmer write to a TCC Exec Manager (No.3 in the food chain) to get an issue resolved? I don't think so!  In fact, given that Palmer is Owner and Chairman of the Board, he would write to his opposite number, the Minister - just as Mayor Les should have!

Or perhaps they were hoping for some wriggle room in the response they would get from some clerk down the pecking order?

All-in-all, a big c*ck-up and a very fishy tactic in response if you ask me.  It will be interesting to see how fast the want-to-be Member for Mundigburra, David Crisafulli, and the want-to-be Mayor, Dale Last, run away and hide from this one!!

Jenny Hill has her own questions too.  I reproduce her Press Release below because I don't expect it to get a run in the Bully:

The letter from the Assistant Secretary of Urban Water regarding Townsville City Council request for water pricing changes should raise the eyebrows of every rate payer in this city.

If this letter is correct and I have no reason to doubt its content then the Director of Water Ken Diehm, the CEO, the Mayor, his Deputy, and other councillors involved need to be accountable for the deception they have perpetrated against residents of this city.

It clearly shows (see second paragraph of letter attached) council failed to supply any information to the Federal Government on how it would charge for water as per the agreement. "The government can not tell council what to do or how it can charge because council failed to provide the required information to the Federal Government." Cr Hill said.

The questions that need to be asked is

1. Why didn’t council staff prepare a full report on water pricing options and discuss it with the Federal Government as per the agreement? What was the direction given by the CEO regarding this matter?

2. What did the mayor and deputy mayor know?

3. Was the pricing structure implemented more about revenue to pay our massive $400 million rather than complying with the agreement with the Federal Government?

4. Why weren’t council staff directed to look at charging methods and options and prepare a report to council on these options?

"We are paying our CEO and some of our directors more than the Prime Minister, hence not only myself but the community deserves better than the trite we have been dished that ,Its the Federal Governments fault. The Mayor needs to stay home and work this out, travelling to Canberra isn't the answer."

There is nothing in National Water Initiative pricing principles that states council had to implement the current tariff and methodolgy to its water and wastewater pricing.

No it’s not the state government, its not the Federal Government, Council determines its own fate in these matters. We have borrowed too much and now the only way this council can manage its massive $400million debt is to hike its rates and water/wastewater charges to the point that they are pricing people out of this city.


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