Brand survey destroys Treasurer’s claim that State’s reputation at risk

THE latest Tasmanian Brand Health Survey has put paid to claims by Treasurer Peter Gutwein that the State’s reputation as a clean, green destination was being threatened by the State’s water and sewerage systems.

The annual survey, conducted by Brand Tasmania and released this month, was described as overwhelmingly positive with respondents believing Tasmania’s reputation and perceptions of the State improving over the past year. The words most used by respondents in describing Tasmania were beautiful, clean and natural. Responses came in from across Australia and from 19 other countries.

Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said the survey, conducted by an organisation heavily sponsored by the State Government, was further evidence that the Treasurer Peter Gutwein was misleading Tasmanians in his attack on TasWater and the cynical bid to takeover the water and sewerage business.

“Mr Gutwein has claimed that our water and sewerage services are trashing Tasmania’s brand, yet Brand Tasmania says the latest survey confirms that ‘the State’s brand is in good shape’”, Cr Foster said.

“This is just another demonstration that the Treasurer cannot be trusted.

“His attempted takeover of TasWater is nothing short of a cynical political gesture and his confected crisis should be seen for what it is, cheap politics.

“To quote Brand Tasmania’s executive director Robert Heazelwood, ‘Tasmania is doing very well, in fact better than most’ and this should put paid to Mr Gutwein’s dishonest claims.”

Cr Foster said the biggest untruth was the claim that Tasmania had a water and sewerage crisis.

“This has been debunked by TasWater and the Local Government Association of Tasmania, and clearly Brand Tasmania agrees.

“TasWater is successfully implementing a fully and responsibly funded infrastructure upgrading program over 10 years that will ensure all Tasmanians enjoy the highest standards of water and sewerage services. This will also provide the optimum return to Tasmania in terms of employment and economic activity, as well as restraining TasWater and council rate increases.

“Today, some 99.2 percent of Tasmanians have access to Australian quality standard potable water and by August next year, one month after Mr Gutwein’s proposed takeover, all Tasmanians will have, so where is the crisis?

“Without doubt, the current model best serves all Tasmanians, particularly Tasmanian households and families.”

Cr Foster said Mr Gutwein’s proposed initial $20 million annual financial distribution to councils was also a concern after he indicated that this would be paid from consolidated revenue and not from TasWater.

“This means that payment will subject to budget deliberations each year. If the budget is in trouble due to reduced GST distributions, lower tax collections or the like, the government of the day could decide to reduce or even abandon the payments to councils ‘in the interests of the economy.’

“Brighton Council doesn’t believe Tasmanians can trust Mr Gutwein to deliver the promised distributions for the full seven-year term.

“As well, the Treasurer has predicted TasWater’s annual profits after 2025 at $35 million, so his promised half distribution to councils is reduced to $17.5 million, already a reduction on the $20 million figure.

“However, in a clear warning to councils, he said this may need to be reinvested based on infrastructure needs or regulatory changes.

“Tasmanians can take this as meaning there’ll be no distributions after the first seven years and if Mr Gutwein gets his way, councils and their ratepayers have that time to get used to the fact,” Cr Foster said.