Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania

14 November 2017

Peter Gutwein, Treasurer

Auditor-General’s report justifies Government’s TasWater takeover plan

The Auditor-General’s report released today justifies the Government’s TasWater takeover plans.

We already have independent report after independent report that shows TasWater’s infrastructure is failing faster than it can be fixed and something needs to be done.

It’s not surprising that in just the last 24 hours, major infrastructure in New Norfolk, Trevallyn and Taroona has failed and residents have been affected.  On the weekend we saw a major TasWater incident at George Town and only a few weeks ago the entire suburb of Risdon Vale was affected by a boiled water alert.

The Economic Regulator and TasWater have previously stated that, the infrastructure is crumbling faster than it is being fixed and Mr Whitehead has confirmed this by saying that “…the extent of renewal had not been at a rate commensurate with the age and condition of the infrastructure assets.”  Mr Whitehead also said “…expenditure was inadequate given what was known about the condition of the infrastructure”.

The Auditor-General’s report makes it clear that TasWater’s balance sheet has not been utilised as it should to invest more into TasWater’s infrastructure, a point that the Government has been making all along.

Mr Whitehead himself said that TasWater has not “…taken advantage of the improved capacity to service debt by drawing on additional borrowings to accelerate infrastructure investment”.

Furthermore, the Auditor-General has agreed with the Government and recommended that TasWater must “undertake greater investment and prioritisation of capital expenditure to address old and failing infrastructure”.

In terms of wastewater environmental compliance he found that “significant long term environmental benefits have not been achieved since 2009 and have not been achieved more quickly since 2013” as we have seen with the high number of sewer main breaks and chokes and sewer outflows.

The only reason why TasWater won’t use their balance sheet to invest more in infrastructure is because of a failure in governance and accountability that allows TasWater’s owners, the 29 councils of Tasmania, to prioritise dividends and their own returns over investing in infrastructure.

We can’t try and promote ourselves as a wilderness destination when we have 78 of the 79 waste treatment plants non-compliant and sewerage spilling into our environment.

TasWater and the councils can try and spin this as much as they want.  The facts are clear - something needs to be done.  We can’t simply allow this to go on any longer.

The Government has a sensible plan to fix the infrastructure sooner and lower water and sewerage prices.

Importantly, our plan has the backing of:

  • The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
  • The Housing Industry Association
  • The Tasmanian Hospitality Association
  • The Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania
  • TasCOSS
  • The Property Council
  • The Tasmanian Small Business Council
  • The Master Builders Association

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