Stop misleading your ratepayers: McArdle to Councillor Jorge Branco | 16th Jul 2014
6:00 AM Updated: 2:48 PM
DETERMINED: Protesters gather at Unitywater's Caboolture office. Jorge Branco
STATE Water Minister Mark McArdle's office has accused a Moreton Bay regional councillor of deliberately misleading ratepayers about the ownership of Unitywater but the council is standing firm.
In his June-July newsletter Division 5 councillor James Houghton told readers the council did not
"Problems with Unitywater? Don't call council!" he wrote.
"Does council own Unitywater? Answer: No!"
The Unitywater website states "Unitywater
is a statutory authority, jointly and wholly-owned by the Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast Regional and Noosa Shire Councils" but Cr Houghton and a Moreton Bay Regional Council spokesman both stood by the claims.
"If it was owned by us, we'd b! e telling
them what to do," Cr Houghton said.
"We've got no say whatsoever in it."
The council spokesman said: "as required by state legislation, Moreton Bay Regional Council is a participant in Unitywater, not an owner."
A spokesman for Mr McArdle
insisted MBRC, along with the Sunshine Coast Council and Noosa Shire Council, jointly owned Unitywater.
"Cr Houghton is deliberately misleading ratepayers," he said.
"Moreton Bay Regional Council along with the other council owners appoint the
board that runs Unitywater on its behalf.
"Unitywater has a participation agreement with its owner councils. It sets out governance and reporting arrangements and how profits are distributed.
"Of the total issued participation rights for Unitywater,
Moreton Bay Regional Council has 58.24%, Sunshine Coa! st has 37.51% and Noosa has 4.25%."
Ratepayers Action Group spokesman Dennis Austen. Photo Jorge Branco
/ Caboolture News Jorge Branco
A RATEPAYER advocate says the whole issue boils down to money.
At a protest earlier this month, Ratepayers Action Group's Dennis Austen said at the end of the day, the only thing people really cared about
"All we want is the prices down," he said.
"Do people really care about de-amalgamation? Do they really ca! re about Unitywater? I don't think so.
"I think all they want to do is see the b******* prices down."
made the comments at a protest against the water retailer in Caboolture on July 4.
He and 25 other protesters gathered with Unite Against Unity placards and a megaphone to discuss water pricing.
"The main thing we're here for today is to just
make our presence known," Mr Austen told the gathering.
"While we're not great in number, we're just continuing to chip away at the edges.
"This is an election year - eight months away now from an election. It's going to be interesting to see
if Labor or Liberal promise to do anything about the situation."
A Unitywater spokeswoman said the company would try to increase efficiency to keep costs and prices down.
&qu! ot;Unitywater announced a 3.5% increase as of 1 July 2014. This
is one of the smallest increases across water and sewerage service providers in SEQ," she said.
The State Government increased bulk water prices (shown as a separate component on your bill) by 10.1% on July 1, adding further pressure to water bills.
The increase was part of the bulk water "price path" that will see all south-east Queensland council regions paying $3217/ML for bulk water by 2017-18 - an almost 20% increase from this financial year.
Speaking after the protest, Mr Austen said the
group's aim was to keep water prices down. He said disbanding Unitywater was the best way to do so, but failing that he wanted to see a representative of the public on the Unitywater board.
A spokesman for Moreton Bay Regional Council said the three
participating councils, including Noosa,! Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay, were jointly responsible for appointing board members.
"There are currently no local government representatives on the board of Unitywater," he said.
The spokesman said
there were no available positions on the Unitywater board. Each Council has the right to elect a councillor to the board of Unitywater. Also, the Council can direct Unitywater in writing on any matter.
You can find
out more about the Unite Against Unity campaign at http://www.uniteagainstunity.info/.