One of the most controversial things a council can do is raise rates and charges.
Over the nearly 20 years I have been a councillor, I have voted against every rate rise other than the usual inflationary CPI increase.
This year, council staff have recommended a 5 per cent increase in our water charges in order to fund an infrastructure backlog and to carry out new works in respects to drought management and the saving of water.
We know from this current drought that there is a considerable amount of work that can be done in respects to saving water. We know that some of our irrigation techniques and how we use some of our greywater can be vastly improved which would make us more resilient in times of drought. I support measures that make our water usage more efficient.
However, I also believe that Western NSW is doing it incredibly tough in this time of drought so I do not think that an increase in water charges is the correct way to go for a number of reasons.
First and for most, I have had multiple people contact me about the proposed water charges increase, and each one of them have indicated that they are already financially stretched. Many of these residents either are on a fixed income being on pensions or have large families who struggle to make ends meet. I suspect that in the coming 12 months, as drought further causes our agricultural sector to slowdown and it really starts to hit secondary industry within the city of Dubbo area, we will see even more urban-based people doing it financially harder.
The other reason I have for being against this increase is that I believe simply putting up charges can be counterproductive. If the council is looking to generate extra revenue, putting up charges will only cause people to use less water, potentially generating even less income.
It is for reasons I support Clr Dayne Gumley's motion that goes to the next council meeting where he requests the CEO of Dubbo Regional Council prepare a water security master plan as well as a report on ways to reduce the impact of drought on our community.
I do not want this council to make the same mistakes of previous councils where they have had water pricing catastrophically wrong. I want to know that Dubbo Region residents can still afford the most basic of government services which is water provision.
As Mayor, I am still only one out of the ten councillors that will ultimately make the decision whether to increase charges or not. I therefore urge residents if they have any concerns about our proposed water rate increase to let council know by going to www.dubbo.nsw.gov.au and follow the links to 'public exhibition' in order to have your say.