BATHURST water users will be slugged almost 10 per cent extra over the next 12 months after Bathurst Regional Council’s draft budget was approved on Wednesday night.
The increased water fees and charges created the most discussion on the night, with Councillor Bobby Bourke saying he could not support the hike.
Cr Bourke said he felt he had to speak up for battling locals who would be hurt by the increases.
“The decision we make on this, even if it just works out to be $1 or $1.50 a week, will affect people,” he said.
“This council has water reserves and we’ve got water, so this is just not needed.”
But Cr Warren Aubin said Cr Bourke was failing to see the “bigger picture”.
Cr Aubin said he did not like seeing charges go up, but believed funding the $4 million manganese trial would deliver a good outcome for the city.
“I have been asking for five years, ever since I became a councillor, how our water quality can be improved,” he said.
“Now we have gone through the process and found a solution and my council colleague opposes a rate increase to
pay for it.”
Cr Aubin said it would be irresponsible of council to dip into its water fund reserves – set aside for major infrastructure projects – to help rein in annual increases.
“If we continue to raid the reserve funds then how do we one day pay to run pipes from the Ben Chifley Dam to Bathurst, or react to equipment failures or fund technology advances,” he said.
“The reserves are not designed to prop up normal operations.”
Cr Ian North also backed the fee increases, saying he could see where the money was going.
“Last year I was angered by a proposed 15 per cent rise because I couldn’t see the purpose for it,” he said.
“But I can understand the need for it this year.
“For a couple of years we have worked on the manganese problem and now we’ve started to see results. So we have said to our engineers we need a figure to roll it out properly and they said $4 million.
“So I can accept 9.7 per cent because I think, at the end of the day, we will get a good result.”
Earlier, Geoff Fry used public question time to suggest council could draw on its reserves to avoid hurting ratepayers.