Media Release


The customer is always right when it comes to water pricing

The WaterNSW operating licence must be customer-centric, prioritising the needs of paying customers over non-paying community stakeholders who are merely observers to the process.

The NSW Irrigators’ Council’s submission to the IPART review of WaterNSW’s operating licence calls for a review of cost-sharing frameworks to ensure water users are paying only for water delivery services, and not public good services such as fish passageways and climate change adaptation.

“Water users have concerns about IPART’s interpretation of the ‘impactor pays principle’, in that it disproportionately burdens WaterNSW customers with the costs of delivering public good services demanded by community and urban stakeholders,” said Claire Miller, NSWIC CEO.

“Contemporary water management serves a range of public interests, including ecosystem preservation, recreation, and cultural heritage. Consequently, the ‘impactors’ creating the need are not solely water customers but encompass the broader community with a stake in water resource management.”

“IPART should not be proposing to mandate more public services in WaterNSW’s operating licence without considering the cost-sharing implications for its next pricing determination later this year.

“The 2021 IPART Pricing Determination hiked water users’ WaterNSW charges by an average 29-31%, and as high as 52% in some valleys. We’re now hearing rumours that charges could leap again by up to 129% in the next pricing determination if WaterNSW is to meet all demands being placed upon it.

“Farmers just cannot afford to keep growing food and fibre if IPART and the Governments keep expecting water users to foot the bill for projects and services driven by changing community expectations.”

The NSWIC submission also raises concerns about the effectiveness of current engagement models employed by water management authorities. WaterNSW. Customer feedback indicates dissatisfaction with communication, service quality, and engagement methods, highlighting the need for improved consultation processes that prioritise customer needs and preferences.

“To build trust and accountability, WaterNSW must adopt prescriptive engagement requirements that ensure targeted and meaningful consultation with water users. This includes publishing consultation timelines, implementing valley-based engagement approaches, and conducting satisfaction surveys to evaluate the effectiveness of engagement efforts,” Ms Miller said.

NSWIC also advocates for the retention and enhancement of Customer Advisory Groups (CAGs) to facilitate direct customer consultation and hold WaterNSW accountable to its operating standards.

As NSWIC continues to champion equitable and transparent water management practices, it calls on regulatory authorities to heed the voices of water users and implement reforms that align with the evolving needs of NSW communities while providing a fair and equitable cost-sharing arrangement.

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