Access to clean water vital for Tasmanian economy

Water and sewage infrastructure in Tasmania is at crisis point, Tasmanian Treasurer, the Hon. Peter Gutwein has told CEDA’s annual Economic and Political Overview in Hobart.

“The State Government considers that we’ve reached crisis point and is no longer prepared to stand by and let this situation continue,” he said.

Mr Gutwein said local councils who are responsible for maintaining the water and sewage sector have not invested adequately in infrastructure since the 2008 reforms to the sector.

The latest public data into the water supply found that 25 small towns had restrictions including 21 bore water alerts and four do not consume alerts, he said.

“In its last industry report, the economic regulator found that there were a high number of interruptions to the water supply and a high number of sewer main breaks, chokes and overflows,” he said. 

“Local government owners have received the benefits of ownership but have not exercised responsibility of ownership.”

“As the regulator stated, local government under invested when they owned assets directly and since the reforms began they haven’t invested enough to get the job done.”

Mr Gutwein said access to a reliable water supply is essential for the Tasmanian brand and economy.

“Clean water and reliable sewage are important to our brand, to our economy, and for our public health and this situation must be fixed,” he said.

He said the next step is to provide local government with an opportunity to outline what action will be taken to fix the current problems.

“They are in a position to do more and it staggers me that they claim they can’t,” he said.

On the Tasmanian economy more broadly Mr Gutwein said despite growth in recent years, there is still work to be done in improving the economy for all Australians.

“It is critical the government continue to build on the economic momentum it is generating and to ensure that the policy settings allow businesses to flourish and provide health, education services that all Tasmanians need,” he said.

Also speaking at the event Commonwealth Bank of Australia Director of Economics, Michael Workman said other industries including services are now starting to pick up following the end of the mining boom.

Mr Workman said there has been an increase in non-residential construction and a pick-up in capital expenditure on transport and infrastructure networks especially in NSW and Victoria.

A big source of growth will continue to be China as they remain a buyer of commodities and also services, he said.

Mr Workman said in international financial markets there will be a lot of volatility this year.

“The US dollar looks like it will go higher, we’ll have higher long term interest rates and most probably if you try and push the US GDP numbers above two per cent towards three, which is what Trump appears to want, you’re bound to get higher inflation through this year and next year,” he said.