Overview of reforms
The State government has introduced the Water Supply Services Legislation Amendment Bill 2014 (Qld) (Bill), which is intended to deliver faster and more cost effective water and sewerage approvals.
The reforms proposed by the Bill are intended to commence on 1 July 2014.
The Bill proposes:
- streamlining the process for water and connection approvals in South-East Queensland by:
- introducing single ‘utility model’ approvals that will apply to all scales of development through, amongst other things, approval for ‘standard connections’ within five business days and accredited third party certification of more complex applications and connections;
- ending the delegation of distributor-retailer powers and functions to participating local governments; and
- removing regulation and complexities relating to coordination and timing between distributor- retailers and local governments, and confusion about their respective roles in assessing and deciding applications;
- fair representation of participating local governments on the boards of distributor-retailers and an alignment of the publication of draft water charges with local government budget processes;
- removing some regulatory and reporting burdens on water suppliers that do not provide treated drinking water (e.g. the providers of water for grazing and agricultural purposes), depending on the risk profile;
- enabling water service provider authorised persons to install water meters on public infrastructure and clarifying when a water meter must only be installed by a licensed plumber;
- updating the appeal provisions relating to dam safety matters; and
- repealing the Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Act 1909 (Qld), which has been superseded by previous legislation.
Effect on infrastructure charging regime
Further to the above proposed reforms, the State government is currently reviewing the existing infrastructure charging regime provided for in the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld). However, the Bill, proposed to commence at the same time as infrastructure charging reform, is consistent with the current approach to infrastructure charging. No doubt, the Bill will require further review and alteration in this regard in the near future.
On a more practical level, the Bill includes transitional provisions which:
- are intended to ensure that distributor-retailers are ready for their new role and responsibilities; and
- confirm that applications lodged but not decided prior to 1 July 2014 will continue to be regulated by the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 (Qld), including the delegation of powers from distributor-retailers to local governments, the giving of adopted infrastructure charges notices, entering into infrastructure agreements and the application of offset and refund provisions.