Jane Erkens petition against the standpipe price hike has collected more than 500 signatures. Photo: Holly Cormack.
Jane Erkens petition against the standpipe price hike has collected more than 500 signatures. Photo: Holly Cormack.

Nanango stands up against standpipe price hike

MORE than 500 locals have put their name to a petition, hoping to reawaken an important issue that was put to bed last month. Nanango local Jane Erkens has reached out to the community, asking them to share their hardship in this time of drought, in protest of councils decision to raise the price of standpipe water from $4.10 to $10.

While Ms Erkens has expressed gratitude to the council for the good work they do, she believes that in this instance the community is not being heard.

As a local business owner at Nanango Real Estate and active member of the community, she regularly hears heartbreaking stories from those who are struggling to cope financially.

“People are struggling. I’ve had people who rent from me coming in, embarrassed, and saying they don’t have enough for a full week’s rent - because they ran out of water and had to buy a load of water,” she said.

“Last year, we lost 30 plus cattle to the drought. We ended up with many calves without mothers, and that’s more work for the already struggling farmers.”

“I even recently had a lady ring me up - she is 70 something years old - she had a stroke and pays half her pension to one of her neighbours, who comes in and helps her around the place. She has also been paying a neighbour $40 a week to get her a pot of water for her rescue horses.”

“She said to me, I don’t know what I’m going to do when it’s $10. She doesn’t really have many options.”

To aid the petition, Ms Erkens, who is the administrator of the Facebook community group ‘Around the town Nanango’, has asked drought affected residents to send in photographs of their drought-stricken land - to show the people and stories behind the statistics. Many residents have installed dams on their property, and these images show they’ve dried up for the first time in many years.

In a fact sheet released last month, the price hike was attributed to a lack of restrictions placed on how much water can be taken from a standpipe - particularly while supply restrictions are in place. The idea was to increase water security by discouraging non-essential use of standpipe water.

Ms Erkens believes this is not relevant to Nanango, which has a steady water supply.

“Our water comes for Barkers Creek, the bores on Barkers Creek. Those bores are full,” she said.

“They recently did a 100 hour test pump on each of those three bores, which has shown a good supply of water there.”

“Nanango water is also the cheapest water in the region. Because there’s no treatment plant, they just chlorinate it to kill the germs.”

Another reason cited for the decision was to reduce the price disparity between town and standpipe water.

Division 1 Councillor and portfolio holder for Management, Water, Waste and Waste Management, Roz Frohloff, backed the rise in charges for the water, promoting it as a viable method for create more equity in the region.

Cr Frohloff argued that the Western Downs Regional Council charged an average of $17.90 per kilolitre for their water supply, and Maranoa Regional Council charged $14.20 per kilolitre.

Ms Erkens argues this is like ‘comparing apples with doughnuts’ and implies those in town resent out-of-towners for getting water at a cheaper price - which doesn’t reflect the opinion of the majority.

“We’re in times of drought, we’re a low socio-economic area, and this is an essential need that they have raised the price on, and I think that is wrong.”

“When you put the price up, you just cut out the ones who can’t afford it.”