Scrapping water tanks will cost households $6500: industry

THE State Government has been accused of being the 'Christmas Grinch' after scrapping the need for water tanks, gas or solar systems in new homes.

Housing Minister Tim Mander today announced the results of a Bruce Flegg initiative stating that Queensland had been "given an early Christmas present".

Mr Flegg had promised Queensland's struggling rainwater tank industry an independent review on the issue following pressure from builders groups.

The Water Tank Group said Mr Flegg established the review and then wrote to Queensland Competition Authority CEO John Hall, emotionally imploring them to recommend the changes requested by the builders. 

 "It appears that the Government, after assuring our industry of a fair hearing, changed the goalposts,'' The Watertank Group CEO Leisa Donlan said.

" None of the costs involved in the maintenance of rainwater tanks are borne by either the government or the builders, so why should they be considered in a review to decrease the red tape of new home building."

"This decision isn't about cost reduction to the home owner, it's about government revenue raising. 

"They can try to spin it as a Christmas present but the fact is, rainwater in tanks is free and if you are using a tank, you aren't buying water off them. 

"Any claims that this will put money back into new home builders pockets will turn out to be a sleight of hand, you may not pay for a tank immediately but you can bet you'll pay for the water eventually."

Industry figures show existing houses with rainwater tanks reduced water use throughout SEQ by 21.2 GL and reduced the costs to the State of Queensland for water and stormwater infrastructure by $1.4 billion.

  Continuing with the current Queensland Development Code for rainwater tanks would have reduced water use by 107 GL and reduce infrastructure costs by $7.75 billion to 2056.

This would be a saving of $6,508 per household.

Queensland Cabinet asked the Queensland Competition Authority to provide additional data on water tank costs and savings. You can view the report here

Rainwater Tank Facts

  • Since rainwater tanks were included in new homes in Queensland it is estimated that every year over 21 billion litres of water will be stored and used. 
  • This means 21 billion litres less of water to be supplied from expensive infrastructure and 21 billion litres less water to be dealt with in our stormwater systems.
  • By 2056, data from the Queensland Water Commission estimates that South East Queensland will need an additional 927,400 homes. 

    Adopting rainwater tanks for use across all new homes for an extended purpose can ultimately reduce water use by 137 billion litres annually.

Mander says decision will cut price of new home by $5000

THE state Government will scrap plans to make water tanks and gas, solar and heat pump hot water systems compulsory in all new homes.

Housing Minister Tim Mander said the changes would potentially reduce the cost of building a new home by more than $5000.

"These requirements add an unnecessary cost to homeowners and place an unwanted drag on the construction industry," Mr Mander said.

"Taken in conjunction with the $15,000 first home owner's grant for new dwellings, that's a massive saving for anyone planning on building a new home.

"People who want to install rainwater tanks or a particular type of hot water system can still do so. The difference is that the decision is now theirs to make."

Under the new laws, councils will be able to opt to retain mandatory rainwater tank requirements where they can prove a net benefit to the community.

Mr Mander said the changes would also allow existing home owners to replace a broken electric hot water system with a similar model.

"Under existing laws, owners of homes in reticulated natural gas areas are restricted to gas, solar or heat pump hot water systems, which often cost thousands of dollars more than the electric model they're replacing.

"Although solar or heat pump systems are more energy efficient, they are more expensive to buy and often require extra plumbing and electrical work to retrofit the existing property before they can be installed.

HIA Executive Director Warwick Temby applauded the moves to improve housing affordability.

"These are very pragmatic decisions that will make a meaningful contribution to improving housing affordability, especially for first time buyers," Mr Temby said.

Master Builders Director of Housing Policy Paul Bidwell also welcomed the decision.

"This is very positive news for our industry and for the broader Queensland community," Mr Bidwell said.

"The cost of a rainwater tank adds up to $6,000 to the cost of a new house and in some cases this can be even more on smaller lots.

"These changes will significantly reduce the cost of housing. Our members advise the extra costs of tanks and energy efficient hot water systems will be removed from the cost of new homes if consumers choose not to install them."

Legislative amendments are required to implement both decisions and the changes are proposed to take effect early in the New Year.

The new laws will come into effect in early 2013.

Topics:  housing affordability queensland government solar water

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