Water costs cop a spray

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Geoff VivianMidwest Times
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Carnarvon motel owners Kevin and Cindy Barratt say they are paying thousands of dollars in water rates for toilets they don't use for most of the year.
Camera IconCarnarvon motel owners Kevin and Cindy Barratt say they are paying thousands of dollars in water rates for toilets they don't use for most of the year. Credit: Merome Beard

Nationals WA small business spokesman Vince Catania said a “tax on toilets” was among a series of over-the-top water charges that were pushing regional operators to the wall.

“Accommodation providers across the State are billed thousands of dollars each month for toilets in rooms that are used for only a few weeks of the year,” Mr Catania said. “There seems to be a lack of understanding from the minister for water about how outrageous charges are crippling small businesses already coping with the rising costs of operating in regional centres.”

A spokeswoman for Water Minister Dave Kelly said the current structure of commercial water charges was put in place by the Liberal-National Government, of which Mr Catania was a member, in 2016-17.

“Water price increases are the lowest they have been in 10 years under the McGowan Government, and lower than projected water prices left in the forward estimates by the previous Liberal-National government,” she said. However, Mr Catania said this showed a lack of understanding of what was happening “on the ground”.

Gateway Motel owner Cindy Barratt said although she paid $7746 a quarter for her 73 toilets, many were idle for most of the year. “The last couple of nights we have only had a couple of people in yet we still have to pay for all those water closets,” she said.

“We are not using them all the time. We feel it would be much fairer to do it on an occupancy rate.”

While motel owners can reduce their bill by decommissioning toilets, Ms Barratt said this was not practical. “How can you cut them off if people need them in an emergency and the roads are closed?” she said. “You might have a downpour up north and the rivers rise and people are stuck and we might need all those rooms tomorrow.”

Businesses in regional WA pay for water at 15 different rates, known as “steps”, based on the cost of providing water to each town. While water use for metropolitan properties is charged at $2.518 a kilolitre, Carnarvon businesses pay $8.562.

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