Council queries online news report

AN online news report about Tasmanian water reform was largely incorrect, general manager Stephen Mackey told tonight’s Derwent Valley Council budget meeting. Speaking up just as mayor Tony Nicholson moved to close what would have been a 10-minute meeting, Mr Mackey said an article on the ninemsn site would be of interest to councillors.

Mr Mackey read the article to the meeting, in case any councillors were questioned about it. He said he did not know the name of the author of the report, which he said contained several factual errors including:

* That Tasmanians would move to user-pays water and sewerage billing from tomorrow (July 1). He said there was no provision for user-pays billing under the legislation used by the State Government to seize what had been council-owned water and sewerage assets.

* That water and sewerage services would be taken over by three State Government corporations. Mr Mackey said the new water corporations were in fact owned by local councils.

* That opponents of the reforms said councils would not reduce their rates bills despite no longer providing water and sewerage services. Mr Mackey said this was incorrect.

The report in question was published on June 28 and sourced from Australian Associated Press. The same article was published by the Brisbane Times, Sydney Morning Herald online, Telstra Bigpond News, countless other online news sites and the social networking site Twitter.

Mr Mackey’s reading of this article prompted a 15-minute extension of the council meeting despite there being no business on the table.

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