Council calls for community voices on water assets decision

Published on 17 May 2023

Following a Council resolution in August 2022, the City of Onkaparinga is calling on residents and ratepayers interested in council’s water assets to join a new community reference group ahead of a decision on the assets’ future. 

The council has been considering whether it should be in the business of owning and operating Community Wastewater Management Scheme (CWMS) assets—which serve 4500 households in Onkaparinga without access to SA Water’s wastewater network—and the Water Business Unit’s stormwater harvesting/alternative water supply scheme.

The review has included exploring the possible divestment of these assets as a specialist water company may be in a better position to manage them and invest for the future. Key principles to guide the process have included financial value, service levels, cost to the community, risk, environment and water security.

To assist with answering this question, council has already undertaken two phases of community engagement, which in 2022 included an online community survey.

Council’s call-out for participants in the new Water Assets Strategic Review Community Reference Group represents the third and final phase of community engagement.

City of Onkaparinga Acting CEO Julia Grant encouraged any Onkaparinga residents and ratepayers with an interest in the future of council’s water assets to throw their hat in the ring.

“The establishment of the group will deepen consideration of Council’s approach to owning and operating water assets, and help Council to better understand what the community values about the assets,” she said.

“The community told us last year during the previous community engagement that they wanted additional information to make a more informed decision on whether council should divest these assets, so that’s what this new group is about.

"More information was requested on matters including the financial history of our water assets, information on ownership options, future impacts on customer pricing and rates, environmental impacts and water security.

“It’s anticipated the group will meet a number of times over the coming months to discuss the pros and cons of different water asset ownership and operation models, hear from guest speakers, take part in Q&As, use hypotheticals to stimulate discussion and explore issues and opportunities, and more.

The outcomes from the Community Reference Group process will be considered by Council in August 2023 as part of its decision making on the future of its water assets. 

“The question of whether to divest has long-term ramifications for residents across the city, which is why we’re not rushing this decision and want to explore every possibility. 

“It’s important to remember that no decision to divest the assets has yet been made by Council, and that divestment can mean several things—sale of assets, lease of assets, joint or part ownership, joint or part operation, or a combination of these approaches.” 

To express your interest to be part of this Community Reference Group go to the project’s Your Say page and apply by 7 June 2023. 

View the Terms of Reference here.