Contractor blasts Southern Rural Water over fees

A DRILLING contractor has sunk the boots into Southern Rural Water (SRW) over its high fees in a submission to the Essential Services Commission.

Mel Bartlett, of Bolwarra, has called for an overhaul of the rural water authority’s charges which he claims is deterring farmer, householders and recreation groups from sinking bores.

The veteran contractor also criticised official methods of calculating underground water reserves, claiming there was no allowance for volumes running into the ocean.

“I’m calling for a total review of the way they assess the groundwater — no one knows the scene better than blokes who do the drilling and monitoring,” he said.

His submission to the commission points out that since the former Kennett government introduced water industry reforms SRW had increased its fees fourfold. 

“Costs have escalated to unrealistic heights for all water,” he said.

“Our family-owned water drilling business is impacted upon as the rural property owners are faced with the ever-increasing fees charged for bore construction permits by Southern Rural Water.

“SRW charges the property owner $720 to issue a works permit to construct a stock and domestic water bore.”

On top of that fee there would be another $10,000 to $20,000 to sink the bore, case it and equip it for pumping, he said.

“Across the border in South Australia the bore permit fee is only $70 — so why can’t the states be uniform?”  Mr Bartlett said.

“It doesn’t matter if the bore is unsuccessful you still have to pay the permit fee.

“Another big issue is the number of  abandoned   oil and gas exploration bores that can contaminate or deplete the aquifer. Regulation and management of these is sadly lacking.”

SRW, which manages  southern Victoria, also charges from $2000 to $11,370 for a bore to be used for irrigation, dairy, commercial and industrial and urban use depending on volume.

The  commission will hold a series of public forums to hear directly from domestic consumers, industry and farmers on proposed five-year water prices and expenditure of the 15 water businesses that supply urban and rural water outside Melbourne. 

The  forum on SRW will be on December 4 in  Maffra and a  Wannon Water hearing will be held on November 29 in the Mid City Warrnambool starting at  noon.

pcollins@standard.fairfax.com.au

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