The Transcript from the November 2013 community meeting into the IPART review of Essential Energy’s Water and Sewerage Prices in now available on the IPART website. The transcript of the Chamber’s representation is copied below. Transcript produced by Merrill Corporation.
BROKEN HILL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Hi, my name is Anne Bransdon and I am the executive officer with the Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce. This is about the 120th year the Chamber of Commerce has come to the table to talk about water and infrastructure, 26 and I’m probably the first woman.
Most people don’t realise, but the Broken Hill Chamber of Commerce is very different to other chambers of commerce around the state. Most of our members are based in industry, manufacturing and construction with a huge
representative of trades. So our members understand that investment in infrastructure is absolutely crucial to the ongoing development of providing good services to customers.
But they’re also telling us in feedback, when we spoke to them about this inquiry, that they’re going to find it very difficult to absorb the cost of this new infrastructure into their water bill. So in the past, we’ve had the subsidy and we don’t believe that we can have this conversation without discussing that subsidy. Last year, it was to the tune of 1.7 million, which is Essential Energy absorbed because the actual agreement with the New South Wales Government had run out. For the Chamber of Commerce, we recognise that that was corporate goodwill.
What our members are saying to us is that if the water rates increase to the level that is suggested, we are going to see a shrinkage in our regional economy and that any significant changes to input costs will affect their financial performance and reduce the competitiveness of business and industry in Far West New South Wales.
This is especially the case where water represents a significant input cost and it doesn’t even factor in other costs pressures, which businesses are currently facing in the current economic climate. We are hearing that this small change could have a disproportionate impact on the business in our community. So this year in this community, we have already seen a number of our businesses downsize their workforce because of diminishing profits and increasing costs, and this has led to they are reducing the number of their employees, they’re reducing the capacity to maintain and win contracts, it has reduced the opportunity for them to provide apprenticeships and traineeships.
What this means is that it will inevitably reduce the level of disposable income in this community and the capacity of the rest of the community to grow, leading to urban drift, and guess where they go? To the main towns and cities, which puts more pressure on the infrastructure in those areas.
28 So in taking the thoughts and arguments of today’s discussions from our community, our members would like to say this: without the subsidy, it is going to force Essential Water to adopt the pricing regime that will put their consumers out of business. That does nobody any good in New South Wales, or Far West New South Wales. By putting businesses out of business in Far West New South Wales, we are unable to contribute to the economic success of this state, and the discussion around the subsidy must be one of the highest priorities when discussing how this water pricing regime is going to be determined. Thank you very much.