South Burnett Council budget meeting.
South Burnett Council budget meeting.

OPINION: Water price success shows power of community action

THE anger in the region in the past months has been palpable.

When the South Burnett Regional Council voted to more than double the cost of water at the region’s standpipes, the community reaction was swift and fierce.

But what set this apart from the usual reaction to controversial decisions by councils, or other governments, was the organisation.

Within weeks petitions were created, community members were speaking out on social media and in more traditional media.

There was even a song written in the later part of the campaign.

The anger and will to force change didn’t lose steam.

And this resulted in a big win, with the council yesterday voting to reduce the price of standpipe water in the region from $10 per kilolitre down to $6 per kl for potable water and $5 per kl for non-potable water.

This is only a temporary step, with a review due in December to provide a more permanent solution.

But is shows when a community unites behind an issue, and leaders like Jane Erkens and councillor Kathy Duff champion the cause – real change is possible.

READ MORE:

BREAKING: Council votes to temporarily slash water prices
‘ASTOUNDED’: Campaigner responds to water price decision
WATER PRICES: What every councillor said in heated debate

Yesterday’s vote also revealed a side of politics often non-existent in the modern world – representatives admitting they got it wrong.

At the June meeting when the prices were first raised, only Cr Kathy Duff opposed the decision.

Yesterday, she was joined by Cr Kirstie Schumacher and Mayor Brett Otto.

Cr Otto received the brunt of attacks from the community, so it was pleasing to hear the mayor deliver one of the more striking lines of the mammoth debate yesterday.

“I heard some really tragic stories that I did not expect to hear. Had I known the impact of the decision to increase the price from $4.10 to $10 per kl, I think I would have taken a different perspective on the matter,” he said.

“I apologise to all the standpipe users that I did not engage meaningfully with prior to voting to increase the price. That is not how I like to operate and I will not be making that mistake again.”

While it could be argued, rightfully so in fact, that better consultation could have avoided the whole issue, it was still an important moment for an elected councillor to admit they got it wrong and pledge to do better.

It’s something I’m sure we all want to hear more off from all politicians in the future.