G-MW extends comment time on licences

By Country News

Goulburn-Murray Water has extended consultation on proposed increases to foreshore licence fees following an outcry from landholders.

Affected landholders will now have until Friday, June 15 to talk to G-MW about the fees.

G-MW also acknowledged its customer engagement on the issue could have been better.

Managing director Pat Lennon said G-MW was listening carefully to community feedback, which would help inform the final licence structure and associated fees.

‘‘I wish to thank the many licence holders, stakeholders and community members who have been speaking with us about their foreshore licensing concerns, and to assure them that we are genuinely listening to what they have to say,’’ Mr Lennon said.

‘‘We’ve had more than 80 individual responses so far.’’

A group of landholders from Nagambie met with G-MW last week and questioned the authority over how the payment scheme was developed and how it had been approved.

The group, elected following a landholder meeting the previous week, is annoyed that many of the landholders had maintained the land abutting waterways and felt they were now being penalised for doing so.

Mr Lennon said G-MW acknowledged its engagement with customers could have been better, and that is why he had extended the consultation period.

‘‘We also acknowledge some of these foreshore structures have been in place for many years and, as a result of consultation, we will give consideration to an alternative fee structure,’’ he said.

‘‘This may include a phased approach to fees for some customers.’’

G-MW said an improved licensing system was needed because structures built on public foreshore land were subject to administration to allow the authority to manage environmental, public liability and operational concerns.

‘‘It is a complex activity to manage hundreds of kilometres of foreshore and the many structures built on or over the water,’’ Mr Lennon said.

‘‘As administrators it is our interest in ensuring fairness for all property owners and the community in how this is managed.

‘‘G-MW is unique in Australia as it is the only water authority that has private residential land abutting some of its storages and that allows licensees to erect structures on the waterfront.

‘‘In other states, this is generally only evident on coastal lakes and river systems.

‘‘In addition, previous feedback from customers to G-MW said that licences should be available for a wider range of foreshore infrastructure, not just jetties and boat ramps, which is what this work is about.

‘‘We have taken that feedback on board and offered a broader licence coverage.

‘‘While many landowners respect and care for the public foreshore amenity, unfortunately a minority do not.

‘‘Damage may be deliberate or it may be caused from lack of knowledge.

‘‘For example, removal of native vegetation, use of herbicides, unauthorised earthworks and the construction of unsafe structures can all impact on public safety, protection of flora, fauna and water quality and the operation of our storages for our irrigation, environmental and urban customers.’’

Mr Lennon said the proposed changes were suggested because a review of more than 330 existing licences was required after they expired on June 30, 2017.

‘‘This review began several years ago in the lead-up to the licence expiry date,’’ he said.

■Anyone wanting to provide feedback can phone G-MW’s call centre on 1800 013 357.