Auditor-General's report 'strengthens' case for TasWater to stay with councils

ASSET PLANNING:  The Auditor-General found TasWater has done better in  identifying assets that need renewing, but is not following its capital program quickly enough. Picture: Cordell Richardson
ASSET PLANNING: The Auditor-General found TasWater has done better in identifying assets that need renewing, but is not following its capital program quickly enough. Picture: Cordell Richardson

TasWater has fully or partly met all the goals of the 2009 water and sewerage industry reforms, except for benefits to the environment.

Tabling his report in Parliament on Tuesday, Auditor-General Rod Whitehead said, “It is my conclusion that with the exception of improved environmental outcomes in wastewater treatment, the intended outcomes of the reforms have either been fully or partially achieved.”

“The reforms have also delivered improved public health benefits,” he said.

TasWater chairman Miles Hampton said TasWater was the right reform, and the company had made significant progress across a significant number of activities.

“We were assessed against 37 criteria and achieved or partially achieved 92 per cent of those criteria,” he said.

“This report adds to the strength of the Productivity Commission report that there is no substance to government claims (that it would run TasWater better), and the sooner the matter is concluded the sooner the 900 employees who work for TasWater can get on with the job.

“For the government to take us over now would set the reform agenda backwards considerably,” Mr Hampton said.

The audit coincided with a state government bid to wrest TasWater ownership from local government. 

Infrastructure Minister Rene Hidding said the report gave the government a lot to consider.

"We believe that Tasmanians understand that TasWater is in the wrong ownership,” he said. “It would thrive and do better under state government ownership.

“That’s a matter that’s currently before the parliament and we will see where the cards fall there."

Sponsored by Treasurer Peter Gutwein, the Water and Sewerage Tasmania Bill 2017 had its first reading in the House of Assembly in August this year, and is awaiting its second reading in the Legislative Council.

The Auditor-General decided in 2015 to audit TasWater because of widespread public concern about failing infrastructure and poor maintenance, polluted drinking water, sewerage spills, inconsistent services across the state, duplicated services and environmental contamination.

The audit looked at four areas of TasWater:

  • public health and the environment
  • management of the assets
  • the expected financial benefits
  • customer service.