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Council to appoint water advisory board

WATER BUSINESS: Gympie water supplies and sewerage services will be a commercial operation under new council policies.
WATER BUSINESS: Gympie water supplies and sewerage services will be a commercial operation under new council policies. Brett Wortman

GYMPIE Regional Council will commercialise its water and sewerage operations, turning them into a semi-autonomous business unit run by an appointed board.

The board will be expected to meet council-set performance targets but will have management autonomy as specified in the Local Government Act Regulations which define "commercialisation.”

The regulations require the council to hand over "management autonomy and authority.”

Under the plan, adopted in a motion moved by Cr Daryl Dodt and seconded by Cr Mark McDonald, the council will establish a Water and Sewerage Technical Advisory Board.

Mayor Mick Curran yesterday said this would not amount to the kind of corporatisation which has been associated in the electricity industry with higher power bills for most households.

He said the soon-to-be established water and sewerage board would be advisory only.

"Council is committed to retaining the ownership and control of its water and sewerage services and to ensure this occurs, council must be rigorous in its approach to the management of the business in order to ensure the State Government does not intervene,” he said.

But the motion, as adopted by councillors last week, goes further than that.

It also calls for the council to apply "the principles of commercialisation as outlined in S28 of the Local Government Act Regulations.”

And these appear to rule out the kind of rigorous control claimed by Cr Curran. They provide, as "key principles” that the council must give such a unit "management autonomy and authority,” including that it "remains at arm's-length to the local government in day-to-day operations,” subject only to overarching monitoring.

Cr Curran said consumers would be protected, as would the region's financial and environmental interests.

"Gympie Regional Council is embarking on a major reform of its water and sewerage business to ensure it is delivering a critical service in a customer focussed environmentally and financially sustainable manner,” he said.

The newly created position of "executive manager water and sewerage” would be part of the process, along with "a Technical Advisory Board comprised of three industry experts to assist council.”

The motion to apply commercialisation principles was supported by all councillors except James Cochrane, Glen Hartwig and Hilary Smerdon.

Topics:  gympie regional council

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