Northern councils set to increase rates because of reduced TasWater dividends

Northern councils have responded to Meander Valley Council's proposed 5 per cent rate increase, saying their rates were not expected to raise that much.
Northern councils have responded to Meander Valley Council's proposed 5 per cent rate increase, saying their rates were not expected to raise that much.

Meander Valley Council has deferred making a decision on its proposed 5 per cent rate increase, in the wake of reduced dividend payments from TasWater. 

At its June meeting on Tuesday, councillor Michael Kelly moved a motion to push back the decision so the council could consider how to reduce the increase to 3.5 per cent rather than 5 per cent. 

Councillors Ian Mackenzie and and Rodney Synfield voted against the deferral. 

The TasWater board announced in 2016 it would reduce dividends to its owner councils. 

West Tamar Council

The West Tamar municipality’s rate increase is equal to less than a dim sim a week, according to one councillor. 

The council unanimously approved a motion at its June meeting on Tuesday to raise rates by 2.65 per cent, as a part of its 2018-19 budget. 

At the meeting, councillor Tim Woinarski said the increase needed to be put into perspective. 

“For some of the highest-priced properties that’s less than a dim sim a week extra,” he said.

Councillor Peter Kearney said at the meeting that the West Tamar Council had lost $1.8 million in monetary redistribution.*

Statements on Tuesday largely revolved around the 2.65 per cent rate rise being modest compared to the 5 per cent increase touted by the Meander Valley Council.

Deputy mayor Joy Allen said ratepayers would see sharp rate rises in subsequent years if the council had not implemented its 2.65 per cent increase for 2018-19.

“It’s a small increase compared to what some of the other councils discussed,” she said.

City of Launceston

A loss in TasWater dividends was factored into the City of Launceston council’s proposed 2.8 per cent rate rise. 

General manager Michael Stretton said the council considered the position of TasWater in relation to annual distributions and budgeted accordingly.

The changes to TasWater distribution cost the council “in the vicinity of $1.36 million”.

“There is a focus on revision of our key planning documents in 2018 - the Strategic Plan, the Long term Financial Plan and Strategic Asset Management Plan,” Mr Stretton said. 

The annual budget will go before council at its June 18 meeting.

Dorset Council

The decision by Meander Valley council was described as “poor management” by Dorset mayor Greg Howard.

“We will never increase rates to cover the loss of dividends,” he said.

Councillor Howard said he didn’t believe councils should receive dividends from TasWater anyway, and, as such, would never pass on the loss to ratepayers.

“There is no need for any council to do it,” he said.

The decision by TasWater in 2016 cost Dorset Council “about $100,000”.

However, the Dorset Council absorbed that loss instead of passing it on.

Flinders Island Council

Flinders Island residents will not be impacted by the loss of TasWater dividends.

Mayor Carol Cox said the island only has a small investment in TasWater.

“The benefits we’ve got of having treated water on the island outweigh any loss that we are experiencing,” she said.

Break O’Day Council

Any increase for Break O’Day ratepayers will come as the result of increased investments in infrastructure, and are not related to TasWater.

Break O’Day mayor Mick Tucker said rates were going up as part of a 10-year plan, specifically focused on upgrading the region’s 82 bridges.

“We have been very honest and upfront with our intentions for upgrading infrastructure,” he said.

“We were aware of changes with TasWater and the freeze. We did the calculations and we worked out that we would be OK.”

George Town Council

For George Town residents, a “minimum” rates rise can be expected.

Mayor Bridget Archer said the council would table its latest budget at next week’s meeting, with a 2.4 per cent rise expected.

“Some residential areas will have a slightly larger increase this year, but generally it will be around 2.4 per cent,” she said. “We have had a difficult financial situation the past 12 months so it’s pretty impressive the way we have managed to keep the rate rise to a minimum.”

Northern Midlands Council

The Northern Midlands Council has flagged rate increases due to the change in TasWater’s decreased dividend distribution, however the amount is yet to be determined.

Northern Midlands mayor David Downie said it would be less than the 5 per cent proposed by the Meander Valley Council.

“We’re still working through the budget in workshops,” he said. “Hopefully [our budget] will be presented at the next council meeting [on June 25].”

*Original article incorrectly stated that the loss of revenue was $500,000.