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Industry hit by increased user-pays fees

A RANGE of new and increased user-pays charges will hit the West Australian business sector this year.

The Department of Environment and the Waters and Rivers Commission plan some of the biggest changes.

Environment Minister Judy Edwards has announced that the discharge component of licence fees will increase by 30 per cent per annum for three years.

Approximately 300 businesses that discharge waste will be affected by the increases, which are part of a broader plan by the Department of Environment to achieve full cost recovery for its environmental regulation activities.

The current fee cap, which benefits three companies, will also be progressively removed.

Without the cap, Kalgoorlie gold miner KCGM would have to pay $780,000 a year, Woodside would have to pay $463,000 and Western Power’s Muja power station would have to pay $423,000.

These organisations are among seven that currently pay more than $100,000 in licence fees.

A further 12 pay more than $20,000 and 54 pay between $5,000 and $20,000.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy has opposed the planned increases in licence fees, arguing that it would adversely affect the competitiveness of local mining companies and ignores the contribution of mining companies via royalties.

Dr Edwards said industries unhappy about the planned increase had a simple alternative – cut back their discharges and watch their licence fees fall.

The Waters and Rivers Commission has been consulting industry about increases in its annual licence fees.

In its discussions with industry, the commission has said the fees could be in four classes from $100 to $1,000, depending on water consumption levels.

This would raise approximately $3 million a year, with the fees likely to be introduced from January 1 next year.

A broader charge, to help pay the $50 million annual cost of water resource management, is also on the commission’s longer term agenda.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s director of industry policy Bill Sashegyi said the planned introduction of a new statutory authority to carry out the land titling, land information and property valuation functions of the Department of Land Administration (DOLA) could also lead to increased fees.

This prospect emerged from a consultation paper, which said the proposed authority would “commercially develop” and “earn a fair return” on the State’s land information asset.

Mr Sashegyi said it wasn’t just State government agencies that were introducing higher user pays fees.

The Australian Customs Service recently increased its container examination fees from $29.65 per entry to $44.00 per entry, to help pay for new x-ray technology.

Another Federal agency that has been told to become financially self-reliant is the Australian Industry Capability Network, which helps the industrial supplies office in each State maximise local content.

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