Water rates are due to rise by $51, with average annual water and sewerage bills for Gippsland Water residential owner-occupier customers increasing 3.7 per cent, from $1363 to $1414, as of July 1.
Last week the Essential Services Commission released its final decision on Gippsland Water’s five-year pricing plan, following a detailed proposal by Gippsland Water and consultation with customers and the community on a draft decision earlier this year.
For the remaining four years to 2028, typical annual water and sewerage bills for Gippsland Water residential customers will decrease by an average of 0.2 per cent per year before inflation.
The Essential Services Commission director of pricing, Marcus Crudden, highlighted that water businesses in Victoria must provide payment assistance to households and small businesses and says Gippsland Water has initiatives to support customers experiencing vulnerability.
“We encourage customers to contact Gippsland Water if they are experiencing difficulty paying bills to discuss what assistance or arrangements can be made,” Mr Crudden said.
The ESC’s acceptance of Gippsland Water’s 2023-28 price submission, outlining the water corporation’s investments, service standards and charges which will take effect from July 1, Gippsland Water customers will see one of the lowest water bill increases across the state over the next five years.
Gippsland Water managing director Sarah Cumming said customers had shaped the submission during an intensive two-year engagement process.
“The community engagement we undertook to develop this submission was noted as being industry-leading when first assessed and fast-tracked for approval by the ESC in March,” Ms Cumming said.
“Customers can take comfort in the fact that our focus over the next five years will reflect their priorities, issues and concerns while at the same time saving them money.”
In approving Gippsland Water’s five-year pricing plan, the ESC considered Gippsland Water’s price submission and responses to queries and the draft decision; consultants’ reports; written submissions from interested parties; and the participants’ views in the public forum held on April 6.
Ms Cumming said the dominant theme of the submission was affordability and fairness and providing bill reductions (before inflation) for customers.
“We ran the ruler over all of our fees and charges to make sure they’re attributed to those who use them at the lowest possible cost,” she said.
“Despite costs beyond our control such as interest rates, electricity and chemicals increasing, we will still deliver an average bill that is 3.3 per cent lower than the inflation rate.
“Keeping bills below the inflation rate has helped to protect our residential customers from a further $53.49 increase on their bills.
“For our tenants and small businesses, the savings are $14.38 and $74.38, respectively.
“This represents one of the lowest bill increases in the state compared to other water corporations for this determination,” Ms Cumming added.
“These reductions, along with our other investments, will ensure Gippsland Water customers receive improved value and know that we are working to provide them with a good and affordable service.”
Gippsland Water committed to several fundamental objectives over the five-year pricing period, reflecting customer priorities, including being affordable and fair; doing its job well; being easy to deal with; being involved in the community; being environmentally responsible; and planning for the future.
Gippsland Water will invest $268 million in capital investments to meet higher demand and higher service levels, $10.5 million in energy projects to increase system resilience, boost renewable energy generation and reduce long-term energy costs and $100,000 per year in programs that support the wellbeing of our community support, including more public drinking fountains.
It will also build on its extensive engagement with its customers and community, including with Traditional Owners, and further uplift its education and awareness campaigns about water conservation, sustainability, wellbeing and customer support by implementing an app, providing greater flexibility in managing bill payments and the ability to monitor water usage, more customer care resources and increased investment in Aboriginal employment and cultural recognition initiatives.
Typical bills for South Gippsland Water residential owner-occupier customers will increase by $111 in 2023-24.
The ESC’s final decision on South Gippsland Water’s five-year pricing plan, also released last week, confirms a $111 jump in the cost of typical bills.
This means typical annual water and sewerage bills for South Gippsland Water residential owner-occupier customers will increase 9.6 per cent, from $1154 to $1265, as of July 1, 2023.
For the remaining four years to 2028, typical annual water and sewerage prices for residential customers will increase by an average of 3.2 per cent per year before inflation.
Mr Crudden says South Gippsland Water recognises the impact the price change will have on customers and has initiatives in place to support customers experiencing vulnerability, including expanding eligibility for its customer support program and introducing a co-payment scheme to help re-engage with customers with outstanding payments and help them reduce debt.
“We encourage customers to contact South Gippsland Water if they are experiencing difficulty paying bills to discuss what assistance or arrangements can be made,” he said.
Following the ESC’s final decision on East Gippsland Water’s five-year pricing plan, typical bills will increase by $93 in 2023-24.
Typical annual water and sewerage bills for East Gippsland Water residential owner-occupier customers will increase 7.5 per cent, from $1238 to $1331, as of July 1, 2023.
For the remaining four years to 2028, typical annual water and sewerage prices for East Gippsland Water residential customers will increase by an average of 0.5 per cent per year before inflation.
The Essential Services Commission formally reviews the maximum prices and service levels to apply for Victorian water managers, including Gippsland Water, South Gippsland Water and East Gippsland Water, against a legal framework established by the state government and set out in the Water Industry Regulatory Order, and the ESC’s PREMO pricing framework, every five years.