Goulburn-Murray Water has been delivered a rebuke by the Victorian Water Minister’s office over proposed fee hikes.
A spokesperson for Lisa Neville said the minister’s office was keeping a close watch on the issue amid a fierce community backlash.
‘‘We’re concerned about these proposed price increases and their impact on license holders,’’ a spokesperson said.
‘‘A consultation period is still under way and we have asked the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to work with G-MW to better understand these proposals.
‘‘We won’t be supporting any such increases until we’re convinced they’re justified.’’
The rebuke came as Kirwans Bridge community members rallied against the increases.
About 55 members of the small riverside hamlet met on Friday night.
Organiser Alan McLean said there was a mixture of anger and disbelief in the room following many locals receiving notices outlining the proposed dramatic increase in charges for what G-MW has dubbed a ‘‘foreshore occupation licence’’.
G-MW declined an invitation to attend the meeting.
‘‘As we are still in the consultation phase, we don’t feel it is appropriate to attend the community meeting,’’ G-MW told The News via a written statement.
‘‘We believe the proposed system is fairer as it means any person who has private infrastructure on foreshore land is licensed and allowed recreational use when it does not impact on operational requirements,’’ the statement read.
Previously, G-MW only licensed jetties, but was now expanding its fee-charging to all properties bordering the region’s rivers and waterways, charging a flat $300 fee.
It is unknown how many property owners this will affect.
On top of the $300 annual fee, G-MW will be adding additional charges for a large range of constructions, including jetties, slipways and boat ramps, which will each attract an annual charge of $290 each.
Mooring buoys, paths, steps, garden beds, retaining walls, entertainment areas, shade sails, sprinklers and any buildings will each attract an annual fee of $100.
A further category dubbed ‘‘Other’’ will attract a fee to be determined by G-MW.
Along with the new fee charges, boat lifts, large buildings and fencing have been labelled ‘‘unapproved structures’’ and fire pits are banned.
Kirwans Bridge resident Peter Smyth received a notice informing him he will be charged more than $1000 for his 2018-19 foreshore licence.
In 2017-18 he was charged around $300.
‘‘I think they’re being unjust,’’ Mr Smyth said.
‘‘I think that everybody that has a boat ramp or jetty are happy to pay what they’ve been paying, but this increase is outrageous.’’
Mr Smyth said G-MW did nothing to maintain his small stretch of riverbank and claimed they were charging him fees to effectively do their job.
‘‘We’ve been maintaining the land which G-MW haven’t been doing and are not going to do. If it’s not maintained it creates the biggest fire hazard going, which they don’t try to rectify,’’ he said.