WATER and sewer charges for developers across the Gloucester, Great Lakes and Manning regions will be reduced.
The announcement by MidCoast Water comes after developers in the Gloucester Shire threatened to cease all future planned works if the fees were not lowered.
Developers had been facing bills as high as $100,000 for planned projects in the Gloucester industrial estate.
The changes will still need to be endorsed by ratepayers, but have been endorsed by the MidCoast Water board.
“The changes have been made following a review of water demand from industrial development and see demand rates halved for the low and medium load categories (typically those businesses which do not use water as part of their operations, apart from providing amenities to staff), as well as the introduction of a new category for industrial land subdivision,” MidCoast Water general manager Robert Loadsman said.
“Businesses in the high load industrial category - operations which use water in their processes such as ready mix concrete, nurseries, food processing and laundries for example - will continue to have charges calculated based upon an individual water demand assessment.”
Chris Maslen, who was facing a bill of nearly $100,000 for a development in the industrial estate, said it was welcome news.
“If the plan is adopted it will make a huge difference to my development capital costs and will mean a significant saving for our project,” he said.
“It has taken quite a while to get to this position, but MidCoast Water staff have been really good in that they gave us a good hearing, have come out to assess the sites and proposed usages and recognised the circumstances of each development.”
R and D Technology proprietor Dallas Stokes said a planned extension to his business would have cost more than $17,000 in fees and charges to MidCoast Water, roughly half of the total development cost.
“We were seeking a no use assessment category for businesses that would effectively have no impact on the system,” he said.
“Although that hasn’t happened we are happy there has been the flexibility for us to demonstrate that we will have a nil impact and so will pay no additional contribution after our initial contribution on the establishment of the factory.”
MidCoast Water said the change to developer fees and charges would not mean higher bills for ratepayers at this stage.
“These changes still reflect a ‘full cost recovery’ for the provision of services to developers and any change to that - such as the potential for subsidising development costs - will be considered after a major review of our development servicing plans, a review we are currently undertaking,” Mr Loadsman said.
“When this review is complete MidCoast Water will undertake community consultation on the potential effects any developer subsidies would have on water and sewerage prices.”
The review of the development servicing plans involves reassessing the infrastructure needs for five water supply schemes and 14 sewerage schemes and is expected to be completed early in 2014.
“It is important for us to strike a balance. New infrastructure to service growth is expensive and developer charges ensure that new assets are sustainably funded and our customers’ water and sewer rate increase are kept under control,” Mr Loadsman said.
“Any change which would result in the overall customer base subsidising developer charges is only permitted by the NSW government if MidCoast Water can clearly show there has been wide and transparent consultation with customers and that the customers are willing to subsidise developers.”
Gloucester based consultant Geoff Marshall, who had been working with Mr Maslen, Mr Stokes and Drifta Kitchens owner Luke Sutton to have the fees and charges reduced, said the decision by the MidCoast Water board made sense.
“All of us accepted that fees need to be paid but they need to be reasonable and the way it was, it was just stopping businesses coming to Gloucester,” he said.
“It is great that the board have proposed these changes, they will actually be encouraging businesses like Drifta, R and D and Garner’s to grow.
“We believe this is a pretty good outcome and appreciate that the MidCoast Water staff have taken the time to meet us and get a really good understanding of the impacts of the charges and work on the changes in the policy.
“The policy now makes Gloucester a much more competitive place to establish business.”
The three businesses at the centre of the policy review request will be submitting requests to MidCoast Water for reassessment of their development contributions with plans to begin development before Christmas.
Members of the community are encouraged to make comment during the public exhibition period, which will close at 5pm on Monday, September 30.
The new draft Equivalent Tenement Policy, which sets out changes to loading types and subdivision categories, will be available on the MidCoast Water website www.midcoastwater.com.au from September 2.