Goulburn-Murray Water’s (GMW) new foreshore occupational licence has created angst not only in Yarrawonga but in several communities including residents at Kirwans Bridge.
The statutory authority has also been delivered a rebuke by the Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville’s office over proposed fee hikes to its foreshore licencing including those of jetties and boat ramps.
A spokesperson for Lisa Neville said the minister’s office was keeping a close watch on the issue amid a fierce community backlash.
‘‘We’re concerned about these proposed price increases and their impact on license holders,’’ a spokesperson told the Shepparton News.
‘‘A consultation period is still under way and we have asked the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to work with GMW to better understand these proposals.
‘‘We won’t be supporting any such increases until we’re convinced they’re justified.’’
The rebuke came as Kirwans Bridge community members rallied against the increases.
About 55 members of the small riverside hamlet met last Friday night.
Organiser Alan McLean said there was a mixture of anger and disbelief in the room following many locals receiving notices outlining the proposed dramatic increase in charges for what GMW has dubbed a ‘‘foreshore occupation licence’’.
GMW declined an invitation to attend the meeting.
Licence holders in Yarrawonga have also been hit with proposed increases of more than 110% described by local Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy as “outrageous” and a “cash grab” by an authority that holds a monopoly over such licences.
In a letter sent to the Yarrawonga Chronicle by GMW’s Managing Director, Pat Lennon he states the proposed new licences are intended to provide licensees with “greater security”.
“The licence duration has been doubled from 5 to 10 years and meets landowner requests for a greater variety of structures to be licensed than traditional jetties and boat ramps,” Mr Lennon states in his letter.
“We believe the proposed system is fairer as it means any person who has private infrastructure on foreshore land is licenced and allowed recreational use when it does not impact on operational requirements.”
Previously residents received a single licence fee for just their jetty and /or a boat ramp (slipway) with modest CPI increases from year to year.
On top of the $300 annual fee this year, GMW will now be adding additional charges for a large range of constructions.
Residents will also be charged extra if their jetty is larger than the standard size of 6 metres long and 2 meters wide.
What is more interesting charges of $100 will now also apply for landscaping elements including paths and steps, garden beds, paved entertainment areas, shade sails, underground sprinklers, power, building structures and vehicle access.
A further category dubbed ‘‘other’’ will attract a fee to be determined by GMW.
Those residents with boat lifts, fencing, fire pits and non-approved structures will be told to remove them.
The sweeping changes to the licencing and subsequent charges came after a review and inspections made by GMW in 2017.
GMW states in its letter to licence holders on April 18 that the review included consultation with new and existing customers and local advisory committees. It does not state who these local advisory committees were and how many customers they had consulted.
Kirwans Bridge resident Peter Smyth received a notice informing him he will be charged more than $1000 for his 2018-19 foreshore licence. In 2017-18 he was charged around $300.
‘‘I think they’re being unjust,’’ Mr Smyth said.
‘‘I think that everybody that has a boat ramp or jetty are happy to pay what they’ve been paying, but this increase is outrageous.’’
Mr Smyth said GMW did nothing to maintain his small stretch of riverbank and claimed they were charging him fees to effectively do their job.
‘‘We’ve been maintaining the land which GMW haven’t been doing and are not going to do. If it’s not maintained it creates the biggest fire hazard going, which they don’t try to rectify,’’ he said.
GMW has received almost 50 feedback submissions as part of their consultation process after they wrote to more than 330 licence holders last month proposing the new fee structure. This consultation period remains open until this Friday, May 18 but GMW have hinted they may extend it.
“We are actively encouraging community members and stakeholders to make a submission, to help inform our final decision,” Mr Lennon said.
To provide input fill out the online feedback form at www.gmwater.com.au/existing-foreshore-licences. Alternatively residents can organise to meet with a representative from GMW by calling 1800 013 357.