On opening my South Gippsland Water bill recently I was struck by the headline to the lead article of their newsletter ‘In the Pipeline’ which read: “Tariffs decrease by 4.8% over five years”. My first reaction was disbelief but I was reassured by a quote from none other than the managing director, Philippe du Plessis: “South Gippsland Water is pleased to be decreasing our prices when utility and other household costs are generally increasing”. Well, you can’t be clearer than that can you? We are further reassured by a table of figures in the article showing a current average bill of $956 becoming $926 in 2017-18.
That looks like a decrease of 3 per cent (where did the 4.8 per cent come from?), but a decrease none-the-less. But what’s this at the top of the column for 2017-18? “2017-18 customer bill excluding inflation”! Well, I’ve never heard of a utilities bill that excluded CPI (inflation) increases and, as I can’t see any flying pigs out the window, I don’t expect it this time. South Gippsland Water admits that inflation will be added to your bill, so at a modest 2.5 per cent per year that would make the 2017-18 bill $1018 – not exactly the decrease in price promised in the article! But they hold their hands on their hearts and assure me that they aren’t trying to mislead us. I’ll let you be the judge.
I could see John Clarke and Brian Daw having a lot of fun with this one. Daw: “So South Gippsland residents are going to get a cut in their water bills over the next five years?” Clarke (as Philippe): “Well, if you exclude CPI that’s true.” “Oh, so you’re not adding CPI to your bills over the next five years!” “Well, no, it will be added but if it wasn’t they’d be cheaper.” “So, they won’t actually be cheaper. Why did you say they would?” “Well, it seemed like a really good story at the time and we were pretty sure that practically no one would notice!” Need I say more?
Frank Hirst, Ranceby.