Claims water usage prices in Busselton will increase following the introduction of new water services legislation have been dismissed by the Water Minister.
The Water Services and Water Services Legislation Amendment and Repeal Bills, currently being considered by State Parliament, are attempting to modernise legislation applying to the delivery of water services.
The introduction of the Bills is expected to corporatise the Busselton Water Board and allow it to be eligible for community service obligation payments from the Government.
Board chairwoman Helen Shervington said they were generally supportive of the Bills and there were two clear benefits.
She said it would enable Busselton Water to operate as a modern trading enterprise with the capacity to provide the full range of water services, and help set up a “robust corporate governance framework with greater transparency and accountability”.
South West shadow minister Mick Murray warned residents could see big increases in the cost of water as the tariff system moved into line with Water Corporation’s pricing for country residential customers, representing a 65 per cent increase.
Water Minister Bill Marmion told the Times neither Bill held a requirement for increases in charges.
“Prices charged by the Busselton Water Board are determined by their specific circumstances and accessed by the Economic Regulation Authority,” he said.
Mrs Shervington reiterated the process of price determination would not change with the new legislation.
Mr Murray also alleged Busselton Water would be absorbed by the Water Corporation, and any future profits absorbed into the Government’s general revenue coffers.
“All the money will go to the Government and the Busselton Water Board will need to present a business case to get any funding for local infrastructure,” he said.
Mrs Shervington said the Water Board Act of 1904 prevented Busselton Water from operating in a commercial and competitive manner.
“The new legislation frees up these restrictions and in doing so will also require a dividend return to Government,” she said.
“Busselton Water already effectively makes a return through payment of rates and taxes.
“The Board has made it very clear that on its current financial projections it cannot provide a return beyond that currently provided if it is to remain sustainable.”
Mr Marmion said the legislation firmly established that the Busselton Water Board would continue as separate organisations in their own right.