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$130m bungle ‘could cause water bill pain’ BY JOHN VAN KLAVEREN MORE rates pain could be in the pipeline after a $130 million bungle at Barwon Water, Essential Services Commission has warned. The commission said Barwon Water would need a “strong” case to seek further price rises to cover the unfunded infrastructure spending. Barwon Water failed to include the $130 million as part of a five-year plan in an application to the commission for price rises. The commission discovered the bungle when granting Barwon Water draft approval for a three per cent rise next financial year to pay for a Melbourne-Geelong pipeline.

The $15 rise on average residential bills would be on top of a previously approved hike of seven per cent. The increase equates to $127 for average business customers and $11 for tenants. The commission said Barwon Water exceeded price approval benchmarks by around $130 million. “This expenditure exceeding the benchmark combined with Barwon Water’s forecast operating expenditure may produce an upward impact on its prices in the next regulatory period,” the commission said. “We have not assessed the prudence and efficiency of Barwon Water’s actual or forecast expenditure. “This expenditure will require strong justification in Barwon Water’s

water plan should it seek to recover these costs through customer prices in the next regulatory period. “Nothing in this draft decision should be taken as our approval or otherwise of the prudence or efficiency of expenditure undertaken or planned by Barwon Water or taken as any approval of its prices for the next regulatory period.” Chairman Michael King said Barwon Water spent the $130 million on infrastruture projects including Armstrong Creek, Black Rock treatment plant and Torquay. The expenditure should have been included in Barwon Water’s five-year plan, Mr King said. Barwon Water was as yet unable to determine whether it would have to

scale back other projects, he said. “We have a number of projects coming up for determination over the next six months and we’ll make those decisions as they arrive. “As a board we are aware of the cost-of-living pressures in the community and our focus is to manage debt and keep rate rises to a minimum. “We have commissioned an efficiency and effectiveness report to look at all our costs.” Mr King said government grants of $25.5 million had partially offset the unfunded spending. State Water Minister Peter Walsh said Geelong families would suffer price increases to pay for the mistakes of the previous Labor government.

in brief Roads charge RATEPAYERS in two Barwon Heads streets face charges of up to $17,275 for road sealing. Ward councillor Andy Richards said council planned a special charge scheme on properties in Colite and Margate Sts “in partnership with residents” after fielding “a number of enquiries and complaints” about road surfaces.

River flush A THIRD flush of 380 million litres of reservoir water will benefit Moorabool River fish and platypus, according to Corangamite Catchment Management Authority. The authority said the final “summer fresh” allocation would begin this Friday in time for an autumn dispersal of juvenile platypus in the river.

Toilet talk GEELONG’S council wants to hear what residents have to say about public toilets. Council announced this week it was seeking public feedback on a review of the municipality’s 115 public toilets, which cost more than $1 million a year in upgrades and maintenance.

Festival funding A $52,500 funding injection is set to promote Portarlington’s 2012 National Celtic Festival in Melbourne and interstate. Tourism and Major Events Minister Louise Asher said the money would also support its “economic and potential job creation impacts”.

View protection A PLANNING scheme amendment could prevent construction of homes over 7.5-metres high to protect views in “key suburbs” of Geelong, according to council. Councillors voted this week to seek approval of the amendment to remove the height restriction in residential areas of 15 suburbs and towns while retaining it elsewhere in City of Greater Geelong.

Peak deliveries HELICOPTERS will deliver materials to help “fasttrack” a reopening of a popular lookout in You Yangs Regional Park, Parks Victoria has announced. A spokesperson said the gravel deliveries would restore a track washed away amid heavy rain in 2010 and 2011.

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Numbers up: Andrew King, Matthew Sun and Neighbourhood Watch’s Rhonda Rotherham show the new texting service number. Picture: Tommy Ritchie 80383

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Text ‘first’ keeping watch on neighbourhood crime ed the service as a latest initiative to bring Neighbourhood Watch into the “technological era”. “We launched our Eyewatch Facebook page last month and the texting service was another initiative to modernise the program.” Sen Const King said the combination of Eyewatch and texting service would help Neighbourhood Watch reach a wider audience. He praised Geelong’s BCC Group for developing the technology.

Sen Const King said he approached BCC Group to help because of director Matthew Sun’s knowledge of technology and community involvement. “It was important we found someone who was interested in actively helping the community and Matthew was the perfect fit.” Mr Sun said he was “excited” to have helped Neighbourhood Watch. “I like to get involved with community projects, so working with Neighbourhood Watch has been great.”

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Mr Sun said he ran a survey finding older respondents were limited users of social media, such as Facebook, but people of all ages had mobile phones. BCC Group designed the service to be simple and easy to use, Mr Sun said. Users could text NHW Reg to 0409 129 988 for “instant registration”. “The service is completely anonymous and you’ll only receive texts from Neighbourhood Watch,” Mr Sun said.

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BY CHERIE DONNELLAN AN AUSTRALIAN-FIRST texting service will keep the region’s residents up to date with neighbourhood crime statistics, according to one of its founders. Geelong Neighbourhood Watch police liaison officer Senior Constable Andrew King said the free service also provided registered users with information including tips on crime prevention and road closures. Sen Const King said Geelong pilot-

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SALES, SERVICE, EXPERT ADVICE & REPAIRS The Independent, Friday April 27, 2012

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Family Anzac Day: Hughan Kennedy and son Patrick at Ocean Grove, above, and Donald Richardson and daughter Sarah Sacks at Barwon Heads. (wit...