$198 hike in waste water could hurt low-income town
WALLANGARRA residents are dismayed at the prospect of a waste water fee increase that could cause some residents to "lose their house".
Representing the Wallangarra community, Anthony Black confronted Southern Downs councillors at a meeting last week to discuss the council's draft 2018-19 budget, which proposes an equalisation of waste water rates across the region.
"The proposed payment increase will balance waste water charges across the region and will be phased in over three years," a council spokeswoman said.
Should council adopt the proposal, Wallangarra residents would find themselves paying $198 more per year.
But Mr Black said the town would be paying for services it did not receive.
"This is a low-income town... if we keep going the way we going there will be a lot of people not able to pay their rates," he said.
"I have no problems with paying it but you need to bring our services up to where other peoples are if that is the case."
Mr Black said Wallangarra's Common Effluent Drainage (CED) scheme required little maintenance and the council had stopped pumping last year.
It is understood some Wallangarra residents have lodged complaints with the ombudsman over the lack of services in Wallanagarra after exhausting the normal avenues.
But councillor for water and waste water Vic Pennisi said Wallangarra's normal water rates were heavily subsidised under the water equalisation strategy introduced three years ago.
"When you equalise across the region you have some winners and some losers," the councillor said.
Councillor Neil Meiklejohn estimated Wallangarra water rates were subsidised to the tune of 80 per cent under the water equalisation scheme.
"We already equalise the cost of water which means Wallangarra's water cost is already kept significantly low."
Cr Pennisi said it was proposed under the council's 2018-19 draft budget that pump-outs would be reinstated on an as-needs basis.
Killarney, which also uses a CED system currently pays the most in waste water fees.
A council spokeswoman said the council and Mr Black were in regular contact and discussions regarding his concerns were ongoing.
Mr Black said he hoped to "work with" the council to achieve an outcome that was satisfactory to Wallangarra residents.