Foreshore fee rises on hold

By Country News

Goulburn-Murray Water has withdrawn proposed fee increases to occupational foreshore licences for the short-term, following public and political pressure.

A review of the fees has been put off until after the November Victorian election.

Both Water Minister Lisa Neville and her opposition counterpart Steph Ryan have criticised the proposed increases, which would have seen fees rise by up to 600 per cent for some licence holders, soaring from about $300 to more than $2000 in some instances, along with new fees levied on those who previously did not need a foreshore licence.

Property owners targeted with the new and increased fees expressed their outrage, with some forming action groups to combat the proposed rises.

G-MW initially extended its consultation period in the face of the political and public backlash.

On Friday, G-MW announced the proposed new fees and fee increases would not go ahead in 2018. All current licence holders will have their licences extended for another year, with only a CPI increase of about two per cent, much lower than the original plan.

G-MW says it will use the buffer period to map all foreshore structures for a new regime to be proposed in 2019.

A spokesperson for Ms Neville said the Victorian Government welcomed the reprieve.

‘‘Landholders can have peace of mind licensing fees will remain stable for the next 12 months, and that a thorough and transparent review process will now take place,’’ the spokesperson said.

‘‘We have a Strategic Advisory Panel in place to ensure G-MW charges and services are sustainable and affordable — and foreshore fees will be considered as part of that process.’’

Ms Ryan laid the blame for the process at the feet of Ms Neville.

‘‘The decision to introduce these fees was made without any consultation and the government is now trying to lay the blame at Goulburn-Murray Water’s feet,’’ the deputy Nationals leader said.

Kirwans Bridge resident and co-ordinator of the local protest campaign, Alan McLean, welcomed the postponement but expressed concerns it was only a temporary win, speculating the looming election may have played a part.

‘‘It would not be surprising to see this decision in the light of the upcoming state election when a whole new regime might take hold,’’ Mr McLean said.

‘‘With matters on hold we all just have to wait and see, but I doubt that anyone would be baulking at a cost of living adjust.

‘‘I’m sure I speak on behalf of a number of landholders in welcoming this extended breathing space.’’

G-MW managing director Pat Lennon conceded his organisation could have tackled the process more effectively.

‘‘We acknowledge our initial customer engagement could have been better and we will be taking all feedback into account in our next steps,’’ Mr Lennon said.

‘‘As we process the input received we will re-engage with customers on a new fee structure.’’

Mr Lennon denied political pressure was involved in the deferment.

‘‘We were not under a political directive to defer the fee structure.

‘‘It is purely the reality of additional work from taking on board community feedback, including that we will now survey unlicensed structures before a new fee structure is established..’’

—Myles Peterson