GM-W foreshore fees draw angry response

May 09, 2018

State Member for Euroa and Opposition water spokesperson Steph Ryan says Goulburn-Murray Water has sought new sources of revenue to overcome shortfalls.

Changes to Goulburn-Murray Water fees on property owners next to waterways have drawn an angry response.

Numerous property owners contacted The News after receiving the latest round of charges for a ‘foreshore occupation licence’.

G-MW charges for a licence to use the bank and now calculates the cost of licence based on any structures present.

Murchison’s Ian Barford said the new fee structure was a blatant grab for cash.

‘‘It’s really petty money grabbing,’’ Mr Barford said.

Every structure, including jetties, slipways, paths and steps, garden beds, entertainment areas, retaining walls and decks, can attract a fee of between $100 and $290 on top of the standard $300 licence fee.

For those who have completed large amounts of maintenance and landscaping, the costs can quickly add up.

A G-MW spokesperson said the organisation had reviewed licensing fee structure, taking many months, which included inspections of all structures.

‘‘While the fees have increased, the proposed new foreshore occupation licences provide licensees with greater security. The duration of the licence has been doubled from five to 10 years,’’ she said.

‘‘The new foreshore occupation licences also consider a wider range of foreshore infrastructure at some storages.

‘‘Some of these structures were previously unlicensed and now benefit from the security of being formally approved.

‘‘Previously (G-MW) only licensed jetties and boat ramps on (G-MW) land.’’

G-MW technically owns the river banks, but Mr Barford argued it was his responsibility to maintain the land, which already cost him a considerable amount.

‘‘I get arborists in every year to maintain the trees. That costs me $1000. I mow it. I look after it,’’ he said.

A recent audit of the banks increased the amount some are paying compared to previous years, according to licence holders.

Mr Barford is particularly outraged by a fee charged for an unused structure.

‘‘It was an unlicensed slipway that I don’t use. I’ve just covered that with sand. They want me to pay for that,’’ he said.

Another licence holder claimed the charges were hypocritical.

‘‘You get mixed messages,’’ Alan McClean said.

‘‘On the one hand we are advised Goulburn-Murray Water are not responsible for the maintenance of the bank and yet nearby landowners are penalised for the work they do to maintain the bank,’’ he said.

State Member for Euroa and Opposition water spokesperson Steph Ryan said G-MW was looking for new sources of revenue to overcome shortfalls.

‘‘I think what we’re starting to see is the consequences of the Andrews Government’s failure to address the financial stability of Goulburn-Murray Water,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘There was a clear signal that Goulburn-Murray Water would change how it operates in order to maintain financially sustainable (operation) and I suspect some of these charges are a way of trying new revenue streams.

‘‘I’ve already made a commitment to review water charges if we are elected to government.

‘‘I think there’s been a significant concern coming from Goulburn-Murray Water customers for a number of years and I think the balance of Goulburn-Murray Water pricing needs to be looked at.’’

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville’s office was contacted for comment.

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