Labor pulls plug on water takeover proposal

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Pierra WillixBusselton Dunsborough Times
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Water Minister Dave Kelly this week confirmed the plan would not go ahead because of the financial and legal implications of the scheme.
Camera IconWater Minister Dave Kelly this week confirmed the plan would not go ahead because of the financial and legal implications of the scheme.

The State Government has scuppered a proposal for Busselton Water to take over the Dunsborough-Yallingup water supply from the Water Corporation to offer a non-potable scheme.

Water Minister Dave Kelly this week confirmed the plan would not go ahead because of the financial and legal implications of the scheme.

Earlier this month the Times reported the plan for the takeover was on hold as Mr Kelly considered the proposal which was hoped to reduce the cost of water for residents and provide non-potable water to irrigate green spaces.

READ: Labor mulls scheme takeover proposal

When visiting the region on the election campaign trail in February, then-Premier Colin Barnett told the Times the proposal put forward by Busselton Water two years ago had been approved by Cabinet and was expected to be rolled out in the coming months.

But Mr Kelly this week said the previous government had indicated in-principle support, prior to fully considering a whole-of-government business case, and said since coming to power investigations by the Labor Government had revealed the project would have significant financial and legal implications.

Mr Kelly said the transfer of ownership would have been contrary to the principles of two water Acts and would have required special legislation to proceed.

The cost of the transfer also played a part in the decision to not approve the proposal, with Department of Treasury estimating the transfer would have costed the State Government between $3 million and $12 million over the first three years.

“This proposal is a very complex financial transaction and the advice from the Department of Water is that it would cost the Government overall and not save money,” Mr Kelly said.

“In the current Budget climate, even a small cost to the State Budget needs to have compelling public benefit.

“Department of Water has indicated that the transfer of ownership would have no likely benefits to customers.”

However, Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the Government’s reasons for blocking the proposal did not stack up.

Ms Mettam said only months ago the former Liberal government was advised the plan would be cost-neutral and said Mr Kelly’s claim the transfer would require a change in legislation was misleading and the transfer could happen without legislative changes if both sides agreed to it.

“The current water supply scheme, provided by the Water Corporation, is unsustainable and what Busselton Water is proposing is a cost-effective, non-potable water supply,” she said.

Ms Mettam said the takeover would have secured a long-term water source for Dunsborough, reduced the cost of water for residents, provided non-potable water to irrigate green spaces and improved water quality in Busselton waterways, wetlands and in Geographe Bay.

“I have been working closely with the Dunsborough community, in particular, who are facing a critical issue regarding water supply for green spaces including sporting ovals, school grounds and public open spaces,” she said.

Ms Mettam said without this water supply option the Dunsborough Lakes golf course would lose its right to its current water source in 12 months.

Mr Kelly said the option for a non-potable water supply for Dunsborough outlined in the proposal would be considered as part of broader water planning in the South West.

Busselton Water declined to comment and directed enquiries to the water minister’s office.

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