A new government business enterprise will become responsible for managing Tasmania’s water and sewerage infrastructure under new draft legislation.
On Sunday, Treasurer and Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein released long-awaited draft legislation detailing how the state government planned to takeover TasWater.
Under the draft legislation, all assets, liabilities, rights and employees would be transferred to the new GBE, taking responsibility away from TasWater and Tasmania’s 29 local councils.
But the news was not welcomed by all sectors, with Local Government Association of Tasmania president Doug Chipman raising his own concerns and describing the potential creation of a new GBE as “appalling”.
A TasWater spokesperson said the organisation welcomed the opportunity to see the legislation and said it would consider its contents.
Under the new draft bill, employees of TasWater would be transferred on the same terms and conditions as they currently have, with no one set to lose their job.
The legislation also states that TasWater cannot be privatised and will not be sold.
In the transition period between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2025 the councils will all share in $20 million from the government, after this period, 50 per cent of profits will go to councils.
“What this plan will do is invest into those municipalities, it will bring forward investment,” Mr Gutwein said.
“What we’ve always said is that we would accelerate the remainder of the 10-year plan into the five years immediately after taking it over.
“One of the reasons the takeover begins on the first of July next year is so there is a transitional period post the passage of legislation.”
He said the legislation guaranteed that costs for ratepayers would not increase and was confident a government-run sector would complete infrastructure upgrades in five years.
But Cr Chipman said he could not see any benefit in TasWater becoming a GBE.
“TasWater is already accountable to the Parliament as if it were a GBE, as well as accountable to the councils and the Tasmanian community,” he said.
Cr Chipman also raised concerns that if TasWater were to become a GBE, it would be under the control of the minister of the day.
Opposition spokeswoman Michelle O’Byrne said Tasmanians wanted some clarity over the takeover.
“What we do know is that if you’re taking legislation to the Parliament that none of your stakeholders support, then perhaps you’re not listening,” Ms O’Byrne said.
Premier Will Hodgman said he was optimistic the legislation would pass through Parliament.
“This is not about who owns TasWater, this is about fixing the water and sewerage services in this state,” Mr Hodgman said.
Mr Gutwein said the government had sought advice on the draft bill from the Solicitor-General and was confident it would “withstand any potential legal challenge to its validity”.
The draft legislation is now open for public comment on the Treasury website.