Mt Isa loses water fight
Mount Isa City Council has lost a case in Queensland’s Supreme Court over a near-$50,000 water rates bill.
The Mount Isa Irish Association Friendly Society had challenged Mount Isa City Council’s 2016 decision to calculate water charges on a unit basis in accordance with the classification of land with a rate per unit of $202 and a $2.60 charge for “water consumed above allocated allowance per kL”.
The Irish Association argued that the council’s subsequent $49,187 bill for water to its apartments and shop did not comply with the 2012 Local Government Regulation.
Justice Martin Daubney agreed.
He ruled that the Council had failed to comply with the regulation and the Mount Isa Irish Association Friendly Society was “entitled to relief” from the charges.
Although the Local Government Regulation gives councils a broad discretion to determine an appropriate method of levying utility charges on ratepayers, it was ruled that section 101 of the act gave them two options for charging; either “wholly according to the water used” or “partly according to the water used, using a 2-part charge”.
Because they used a water meter, the council should have charged wholly according to the water used.
The court rejected the council’s argument that even though they may not have complied with section 101, they had complied with transparency requirements relating to their budget.
“The respondent (Mt Isa council) should have turned its mind to the local government principles in the LGA when it resolved to determine its utility charges for the rates period,” he said.
“(The council) should have turned its mind to the local government principles in the LGA when it resolved to determine its utility charges for the rates period.”
Mount Isa City Council is reviewing the judgement and awaiting further legal advice.