FAQs

General Information

What does IPART stand for?

IPART stands for the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW.

What does IPART do?

Our core functions are conferred by legislation, delegations rules and access regimes established by legislation.  These functions are to:

  • Set or recommend maximum prices for monopoly services in NSW (including water and public transport).
  • Regulate maximum gas prices that regulated energy retailers can charge to residential and small business customers.
  • Administer licensing or authorisation of water, electricity and gas network businesses, and monitor compliance with licence conditions.
  • Advise the NSW Government or its agencies on issues such as pricing, efficiency, industry structure and competition.
  • Regulate private sector access to water and wastewater to encourage competition and re-use.
  • Maintain a local government cost index, determine the maximum percentage increase in local government general revenue (rate peg), determine special rate variations and review Councils development contributions plans.
  • Undertake market monitoring of relevant sectors in the electricity market.
  • Administer the Energy Savings Scheme and associated register of energy savings certificates. 
  • Register agreements for access to public infrastructure assets and arbitrate disputes about agreements for access to public infrastructure.
  • Investigate complaints about competitive neutrality referred to us by the NSW Government.
What are IPART's purpose and goals?

IPART provides independent regulatory decisions and advice to protect and promote the ongoing interests of the consumers, taxpayers and citizens of NSW.

Our values:

  • We act with integrity
  • We earn trust
  • We deliver excellence
Who are the key people at IPART?

IPART comprises of the Tribunal and Secretariat.

The Tribunal includes up to 3 permanent members who are appointed by the Premier of NSW.  It can also include additional temporary members who are appointed by the Premier to assist on specific investigations.
The Tribunal members are responsible for making IPART’s decision and recommendations. 

The current permanent members include:

  • Dr Peter J Boxall  AO, Chairman
  • Ms Catherine Jones, Part Time Member
  • Mr Ed Willett, Part Time Member


The Secretariat
includes teams of analytical, legal and administrative staff who assist and support the Tribunal.  The Secretariat is headed by the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Hugo Harmstorf. The Secretariat:

  • conducts research and analysis for IPART reviews
  • manages the consultation processes for reviews
  • prepares and publishes the issues papers and reports for reviews
  • provides legal advice to the Tribunal.

IPART also engages external consultants to conduct specialist research and provide expert advice for our reviews where needed.

IPART's Organisation Chart

How does IPART make price determinations?

We make our price determinations after an extensive consultation and review process.  Typically, this involves:

  • Advertising the price review
  • Publishing an issues paper that:
    • explains what we are reviewing
    • outlines our proposed approach to the review
    • discusses the key issues we will consider, and
    • invites all interested parties to make a written submission to the review.
  • Engaging consultants to provide expert analysis and advice where necessary.
  • Publishing all the submissions and consultant reports we receive on our website, subject to confidentiality.
  • Considering all the submissions and reports we receive and conducting our own research and analysis.
  • Making a draft determination, and publishing a draft report that:
    • explains our draft determination – including how and why we made our draft decisions, and their implications for the regulated business and its customers
    • invites all interested parties to make a submission in response to the draft report.
  • Considering all the submissions we receive in response to the draft report.
  • Making a final determination, and publishing a final report that explains our final determination – including how and why we reached our final decisions and their implications for the regulated business and its customers.
  • Publishing short fact sheets for consumers that explain how and why prices will change and how the changes will affect them.
How can I have my say?

The issues paper and draft report for all our reviews provide information on when and how to make a submission (usually at the start of the report, before the table of contents).

In making a submission, you can address:

  • some or all of the issues identified in the issues paper, or some or all of the draft decisions discussed in the draft report
  • any other issue you think is relevant to the review (taking into account the matters we are required to consider under either the relevant legislation or the terms of reference for the review).

For more information, see our submissions policy.

What is the difference between a draft and final report?

IPART usually makes a draft determination or draft recommendations before we make our final decisions.   We publish a draft report to explain our draft determination or recommendations, and invite stakeholders to provide feedback.

Our draft determinations and draft reports have no status or purpose other than to assist us in consulting with stakeholders and making our final decisions.   In some cases, our final decisions are different from the draft decisions.

What is the difference between a determination and a recommendation?

Our determinations are made under powers conferred by legislation, and our final determinations are binding on the business or industry they relate to. 

Our recommendations are usually made at the request of a NSW Government Minister, and our final recommendations are not binding.  The Government has the final decision-making power.  

What can I do if I disagree with an IPART decision?

If you disagree with a final decision, your right of appeal will depend on the legislation or industry code under which we made the decision.  Therefore, you may need to seek legal advice on how to proceed.

If you have a complaint about our review processes or administrative conduct, you should contact us by email, letter or telephone. We will acknowledge your complaint and attempt to address it. We will also register it as a submission to the review, if appropriate.  If you are not happy with our response, you may make a complaint in writing to the NSW Ombudsman.

If you are concerned about a Government Information Public Access (GIPA) or privacy issue, you should contact us.  You have various avenues of review available to you.

How can I keep up-to-date with IPART's decisions?

You can check this website – all our decisions are published here at the time they are released.  You can also subscribe to receive an email notification when we release a document in your area of interest.

How can I obtain copies of old IPART reports?

This website contains all IPART documents published since 1996, view our publications.

How can I provide feedback on my experience using this website?

We welcome comments on your experience using our website.  Please send your feedback via our enquiries form.

Alternative, you can write to IPART, PO Box K35, Haymarket Post Shop, NSW 1240.

How does IPART engage with social media?

IPART provides opportunities through this website and various social media channels to listen, inform and engage with the community on issues relating to reviews and determinations IPART undertakes.

These channels are actively monitored and updated by IPART during normal business hours (9am to 5pm) on a working day. IPART may change the format of social media engagement at any point, including by content (partially or in its entirety) and by removing any or all social media platforms from public view.

We welcome your participation via our social media channels. However, to ensure they are used constructively, we ask that you follow the guidelines below when contributing to any of our social media channels.

Twitter

We utilise Twitter to inform and engage on issues relating to our reviews and determinations for Twitter users who elect to watch or follow our Twitter feed.

If you follow IPART, you can expect to receive tweets relating to our review and determinations, invitations to provide feedback on specific issues and general information about the areas we regulate including electricity, gas, water, public transport, taxis and local government rates. However tweets are not public submissions. If you wish to make a public submission please see Having your say page.

Following

IPART may follow relevant organisations including government agencies, organisations in the policy and reform sector, and regulatory reviews where there is a clear link in communicating and receiving information.

If you follow @ipartnsw we will not automatically follow you back. This is to discourage the use of direct messaging, avoid resource wasting spam handling and so that you can easily identify other key Twitter users that we think are relevant to our work. Including an account on a Twitter list does not imply endorsement of any kind.

@replies and direct messages

We welcome feedback and ideas from all of our followers, and endeavour to join the conversation where possible. We are not able to reply individually to all of the messages we receive via Twitter, but endeavour to ensure that emerging themes or helpful suggestions are passed to the relevant people within IPART.

Re-tweeting

IPART seeks opportunities to re-tweet content that contributes to the dissemination and exchange of useful information about topics of relevance to IPART's work and likely to be of interest to our followers.

Re-tweeting does not imply endorsement by IPART of the views expressed in the tweeted content.

Official correspondence

The usual ways of contacting us for official correspondence, including formal submissions, are detailed in the contact us and submissions policy sections of our website.

If you have any questions, please contact us

Energy

Electricity - How does the removal of retail electricity price regulation affect me?

The NSW Government has provided information, including a list of frequently asked questions (opens in a new window)  , on the removal of retail electricity price regulation

Electricity - I'm not happy about electricity price increases. What can I do?

Here is information about ways to save money on your electricity bill.

Electricity - Can I complain to someone about prices?

If you have a problem or dispute with your retailer about billing or another matter, you can contact EWON (opens in a new window)  for help in resolving your dispute. However, EWON has no role or authority in setting prices. This means it is not able to investigate complaints about price increases. But it can review whether the relevant charges and prices have been correctly applied to your account.

Electricity - Why is there a service availability charge? Is this the network charge?

Many of the costs incurred in supplying small retail customers are fixed. This means that they do not vary with the amount of electricity used by the customer. For example, these include the costs of:

  • operating a 24-hour-a-day control centre
  • providing an emergency and technical response team
  • operating billing and accounting systems
  • providing access to the network infrastructure.

The service availability charge or “fixed component” on your electricity bill recovers these fixed costs. This charge ensures that all customers make a reasonable contribution to the overall cost of making the supply of electricity available.

The service availability charge is not the same as network charges. The network charges include both fixed and variable costs components, so they are incorporated into the service availability charge and the consumption charges you pay your retailer.

Electricity - Where can I find information about historical prices?

Each regulated suppliers’ historical prices are available below:

 energyaustralia   integral energy  country energy
 2013              2013  2013
2012   2012  2012
2011   2011  2011
 2010  2010  2010
 2009  2009  2009
 2008  2008  2008
 2007  2007  2007
 2006  2006  2006
 2005  2005  
 2004  2004  
 2003  2003  
 2002  2002  
   2001  

A time series of regulated retail electricity prices in NSW is also provided here. These prices are a weighted average across NSW.  The link contains a price index from 1992/93, and indicative customer bills based on regulated prices from 1999/00.

 

Electricity - What are the maximum prices and charges for electricity in residential parks in NSW?
Electricity - Are there are government assistance measures available to help households with their energy costs?

Here is information on how to save on your energy bill and what financial assistance my be available to you.

Can you provide more details about the Energy Savings Scheme?

See the answers to questions that are asked often about the Energy Savings Scheme.

Gas - Who is my regulated supplier?

There are 3 regulated suppliers (or standard retailers) of gas in NSW:

  • AGL supplies Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle, Dubbo, Orange, Parkes, and parts of the Riverina.
  • ActewAGL supplies the regions surrounding the ACT and south east NSW (including Young, Goulburn, Shoalhaven and Yass).
  • Origin Energy (Wagga Wagga) supplies the south western regions of NSW (including Wagga Wagga and Gundagai) and inland cities (such as Tamworth).
  • Origin Energy (Albury) supplies the areas on the NSW and Victorian border (including Albury and the Murray Valley Towns).

These are the ‘standard retailers’, which means they are obliged to supply gas to all small customers in their supply area who haven’t entered into a market contract. They must charge these customers the regulated retail prices.

However, like other retailers, they can also supply gas under market contracts to customers who choose to enter into one of these contracts with them. They charge these customers unregulated prices.

Here is information about the difference between regulated prices and market prices for gas.

Gas - What are the regulated retail gas prices in my area?
Gas - How does IPART set regulated gas prices?

IPART sets gas prices for residential and small business customers who have not entered into a market contract with a licensed retailer. The IPART gas review process is explained here.

Information on why gas costs what is does is available here

Gas - Why have prices increased on 1 July 2014?

The primary reason that regulated gas prices increased on 1 July 2014 is due to rising wholesale gas prices.  For the first time gas will be exported from eastern Australia.  Gas reserves previously contracted to NSW are depleting or being directed to Queensland for export.  This means increasingly wholesale gas prices will be set on an international basis.

For more information about the changes in regulated gas prices from 1 July 2014, see our  fact sheet

Gas - I’m not happy about the price increases. What can I do?

 Here is information on ways to save money.

Gas - Can I complain to someone about prices? Can IPART do something?

IPART sets gas prices for residential and small business customers who have not entered into a market contract with a licensed retailer.

Here the  IPART gas review process explained.

Gas retail prices need to reflect the costs of supplying gas to small retail customers, and when these costs go up, prices must also go up.

We conduct our reviews through transparent and consultative processes.  We undertake extensive analysis and consultation.  We also seek expert advice.  We are confident that the estimated costs of supplying gas are reasonable and we set prices that will recover these costs.

If you have a problem or dispute with your retailer about billing or another matter, you can contact EWON (opens in a new window)  for help in resolving your dispute. However, EWON has no role or authority in setting prices. This means it is not able to investigate complaints about price increases. But it can review whether the relevant charges and prices have been correctly applied to your account.

Gas - What are the different types of regulated prices?

Each standard retailer has 2 types of charges:

  • A ‘supply’ or ‘access’ charge, which applies to the number of days you were connected to the gas supply via the retailer during the billing period. This charge is generally expressed as cents per day.
  • ‘Consumption’ or ‘usage’ charges, which apply to the gas you consumed during the billing period, and are generally expressed as cents per Mega Joule (MJ).
Gas - Why are the regulated prices different for each area?

IPART sets the regulated prices for each regulated retailer so they reflect the costs it incurs in supplying gas to its customers on regulated contracts. These prices differ because each regulated supplier:

  • Incurs different distribution network costs. Each gas retailer has to pay the companies that own and operate the gas distribution networks in NSW for using these networks to deliver gas to your property. To recover these costs, the regulated retail prices include distribution network charges. Because the regulated suppliers each use a different gas distribution network, their network costs are different, and the network charges included in their regulated retail prices are also different.
  • May incur different retail costs. For example, they may incur different wholesale gas costs and/or different costs to run the retail business.
Gas - How do I know if I am on a regulated contract or a market (or negotiated) contract?

You may be on a regulated contract if:

  • You live in Sydney, Wollongong, Newcastle, Dubbo, Orange, Parkes or the Riverina and you are supplied by AGL.
  • You live in the NSW regions surrounding the ACT and south east NSW (including Young, Goulburn, Shoalhaven and Yass) and you are supplied by ActewAGL.
  • You live in a south western region of NSW (including Wagga Wagga and Gundagai) or an inland city (such as Tamworth) and you are supplied by Origin Energy.
  • You live in an area on the NSW and Victorian border (including Albury and the Murray Valley Towns) and you are supplied by Origin Energy.

 

You are likely to be on a market contract if:

  • the above does not apply to you
  • you are supplied gas by any other retailer
  • there are any discount items on your bill
  • you have been door-knocked and asked to change retailer any time since 2002 and have taken up their offer.

 

If you are still not sure, contact your retailer and ask what kind of contract you are on.

Note that if you are on a market contract, you can switch back to your regulated supplier and a regulated contract at any time. Simply call the regulated supplier in your area.  However, if you switch before the end of your market contract term, you may have to pay an exit fee.  Check the terms and conditions with your current retailer.

Gas - Who are the licenced retailers in NSW?

For a list of retailers licenced to supply gas in NSW, please see the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) Public Register of Authorised Retailers (opens in a new window)  , or email the AER at  AERInquiry@aer.gov.au for further information.

Gas - Why is there a supply charge or access charge? Is this the network charge?

Many of the costs incurred in supplying customers on regulated prices are fixed.  This means that they do not vary with the amount of gas the customer uses.  For example, the fixed costs include those of:

  • providing access to network infrastructure
  • operating a 24-hour-a-day control centre
  • providing an emergency and technical response team
  • operating billing and accounting systems.

The supply or access charge on your gas bill recovers some of these fixed costs. This charge ensures that all customers make a reasonable contribution to the overall cost of making the supply of gas available.

The supply or access charge is not the same as distribution network charges. Distribution network charges generally include both fixed and variable cost components, so they are incorporated into the supply charge and the consumption charges you pay your retailer.

Gas - Why have my regulated retail prices gone up by more than the percentage increase announced by IPART?

IPART does not set a specific price for each regulated retail price on offer in NSW – we have agreed the average amount (in percentage terms) by which each regulated supplier can increase the retail component of its regulated prices.  The regulated suppler must then set its individual prices so that, on average, they do not increase by more than the amount we agreed. 

This form of regulation means that a regulated supplier can increase one regulated price by more than the average amount, as long as it increases another by less than the average.  However, it is most likely to set each price so that it reflects the underlying costs of supplying the customers on that price.  This is because, in the competitive market for retail gas, it is in the retailer’s interests to do this. For example, if it were to set one price well above the costs of supply, its competitors would be able to target customers on that price by offering them a better deal, and it would likely lose these customers. 

The form of regulation also means that a regulated supplier can increase one component of a regulated price by more than the average amount, as long as it increases another component by less that this amount.  For example, it may increase the supply charge by more than the average amount, but increase the consumption charges by less than this amount.  If you are a small gas user, this might mean that your bill increases by more than the average percentage increase announced by IPART. 

In addition, the amount you are billed for gas depends on how much gas you use, as well as the price you are charged.  Therefore, if you have used more gas than you did in the same period the previous year, your bill might increase by more than the average percentage increase in prices.

Gas - Where can i get a time series of regulated retail gas prices for a typical residential customer in NSW?

A time series of regulated retail gas prices for a typical residential customer in NSW is provided.   The link contains a price index and indicative customer bills for a typical AGL residential customer consuming MJ 20,000 per year.

Gas - Wouldn't it be fairer if all customers paid the same for gas regardless of where they live?

The cost of supplying gas to your home depends on where you live.  For example, it costs less if you live in a city (where there are a large number of customers in a small area) than if you live in a rural area (where there few customers in a large area).  If everyone paid the same price, then some people would have to pay more than it costs to supply them, and so would be subsidising the costs of other people.

Gas - When can my gas retailer change the prices I pay?

Under the Voluntary Pricing Arrangements (VPAs) agreed between IPART and the regulated suppliers, regulated retail gas prices generally change on 1 July in each year for the duration of the agreement (2014 to 2016). 

For customers on market contracts, your contract will specify how and when your retailer can change your price.

Solar - Where can I find information about PV systems and the Solar Bonus Scheme?

Here is general information on solar PV units.

The NSW Department of Trade & Investment, Regional Infrastructure & Services has developed some frequently asked questions about solar PV systems and the Solar Bonus Scheme. This includes information about Solar Bonus Scheme eligibility, tariff payments and metering arrangements. Here are the  frequently asked questions (opens in a new window)  .

IPART also has a fact sheet which explains the characteristics of PV systems in NSW and some key messages for those thinking of installing a system.

Here is further information on solar feed-in tariffs.

Solar - Where can I find information on feed-in tariffs being offered by retailers?

The AER's Energy Made Easy (opens in a new window)  website provides information on feed-in tariffs available in your area.

For general information about solar feed-in tariffs.

IPART also has a fact sheet which explains the characteristics of PV systems in NSW and some key messages for those thinking of installing a system.

Solar - Why doesn't my electricity retailer pay me the full retail price (ie: '1 for 1') for electricity I export to the grid from my solar PV system?

Retailers would lose money if they were required to offer a feed-in tariff that is equal to the retail price. Retailers would then receive the retail price for the electricity they sell that is generated by PV customers, but they would incur substantial cost in doing so. Once the PV energy passes through the customer’s meter to the grid and on to other customers, retailers will incur immediate costs for use of the network and for green schemes. The value of electricity generated by PV units is considerably less than the retail price. A 1 for 1 feed-in tariff would require the retailers to subsidise these customers. The cost of a subsidy would need to be recovered either through higher electricity prices or the NSW budget.

Local Government

Local Gov - What is the rate peg and what is rate pegging?

Since 1977, certain council revenues (known as general income) have been regulated in NSW under an arrangement known as ‘rate pegging’.

Rate pegging limits the amount which councils can increase their general income.  General revenue mainly comprises rates revenue, but also includes certain annual charges.  It excludes stormwater and waste charges, and water and sewerage charges.

The rate peg is the maximum percentage amount that a council may increase its general income for the year.  Previously, the rate peg was set by the Minister for Local Government.  Since 2011/12, it has been set by IPART under a delegation by the Minister for Local Government. 

Local Gov - What is IPART’s role in NSW local government rate setting?

In 2010 the NSW Government gave IPART new functions in regulating council rate increases. These roles and functions included:

> determining the rate peg (the maximum allowable increase in local government general income)
> establishing a Local Government Cost Index and having regard to a productivity factor to be used in setting the rate peg
> reviewing applications from councils for special rate variations and determining those special rate variations
> reviewing applications from councils for minimum rates above the statutory limit and determining minimum rate increases.

The Minister for Local Government delegated to us certain rate setting functions and powers under the Local Government Act 1993. We are, therefore, the decision-making body.

Local Gov - What is a productivity factor?

The productivity factor is an adjustment to the LGCI to allow ratepayers to share in the efficiency gains made by councils.

Local Gov - What does the rate peg increase apply to?

The rate peg sets the maximum increase in each council’s ‘general income’ for the financial year.  The main component of general income is rates revenue.  General income does not include other forms of revenue such as fees, fines, water or sewerage rates, domestic waste management charges and developer charges.  It does include a small number of annual charges for some councils, such as drainage levies.

The rate peg does not apply to individual ratepayers’ rates.  The rate peg applies to a council’s ‘general income’ in total.  Councils can determine how to allocate this increase between different ratepayer categories.  Individual rates are also affected by other factors, such as land valuations.  Therefore, an individual ratepayer’s rates may increase by more or less than the rate peg amount.

Local Gov - Why did my rates go up by more than the rate peg percentage?

Within rate-pegging, it is possible for some rates to increase by more than the rate-peg limit while others may increase by less than the rate-peg limit.  In some cases, rates may decrease from the previous year.

A council’s rating structure and valuation changes are the main factors that will determine what happens to rates on an individual property. A general revaluation by the Valuer-General may result in the value of some land in a council area increasing or decreasing by more than other land. Where this happens the rates burden will shift. Councils may decide to vary rating structures from year to year to compensate for this.

Local Gov - Can your rates increase by more than the rate-peg percentage?

Yes. Rate pegging applies to a council’s overall general income and not to rates on individual properties. Within rate pegging, it is possible for some rates to increase by more than the rate peg percentage, while other rates may increase by less than the rate peg limit. In some cases, rates may decrease from the previous year. A council’s rating structure and valuation changes are the main factors that determine what happens to rates on an individual property. Rating structures may change significantly from year to year.

Local Gov - Are all rates and charges limited by rate-pegging?

No. Only certain rates and charges are subject to rate pegging. Rates and charges for waste management, water, sewerage and stormwater are not subject to rate pegging.

Local Gov - How is the rate peg determined?

IPART determines the rate peg that will apply to all councils for the year using a Local Government Cost Index. The Index assists in calculating the operational costs of councils in New South Wales.

The rate peg percentage is calculated by subtracting a determined productivity factor for councils from the Local Government Cost Index.

For 2016/17, IPART determined a Local Government Cost Index of 1.78% and a productivity factor of 0.0%, giving a rate peg for 2016/17 of 1.8%.

Local Gov - What were the percentage increases in the rate pegging limit in recent years?

2016/17 - 1.8%
2015/16 - 2.4%
2014/15 - 2.3%
2013/14 - 3.4%
2012/13 - 3.6%
2011/12 - 2.8%
2010/11 - 2.6%
2009/10 - 3.5%
2008/09 - 3.2%
2007/08 - 3.4%
2006/07 - 3.6%
2005/06 - 3.5%

Local Gov - What is a special variation?

A special variation (or special rate variation) allows councils to increase their general income above the rate peg. There are a range of reasons why a council may apply for a special rate variation, such as

  • to address the financial sustainability of the council
  • funding new or enhanced community services to meet growing demand in the community
  • funding the development and/or maintenance of essential community infrastructure
  • funding projects of regional significancecovering special cost pressures that the council faces.

There are two types of special variations that a council may apply for under the Local Government Act 1993:

a single variation (section 508(2)) or
a variation each yeah for 2 to 7 consecutive years (section 508A).

Local Gov - What are the criteria for assessing special rate variations?

IPART assesses applications for special rate variations in accordance with the criteria in the guidelines published each year by the Division of Local Government (DLG), Department of Premier and Cabinet.  The Special Rate Variations Guidelines are published on our website and also in the Publications section of the DLG’s website.  The current criteria can be found in the Guidelines here.

Local Gov - Can residents make submissions directly to IPART?

Councils are required to consult with their communities regarding their expenditure and revenue plans as part of their Integrated Planning and Reporting activities.  We therefore encourage members of the community to participate in their council’s community engagement processes. We do however allow submissions from interested groups or individual ratepayers regarding special variations applications once we receive an application from a council. 

Submissions can be made online where applications are posted on the IPART website, or can be emailed to localgovernment@ipart.nsw.gov.au, or posted to:
Local Government Team
Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW
PO Box K35
Haymarket Post Shop, NSW 1240

Local Gov - Are councils held accountable to the special variation process?

Yes.  IPART requires all councils to report on the outcomes from their expenditure of the special variation in their annual reports.  This reporting is monitored by the Division of Local Government.

Communities must be able to see that revenue from these rate increases are spent as intended.  Ultimately, in cases of serious or unexplained non-compliance with conditions attached to special rate variations.  The DLG could recommend that IPART vary or revoke a determination.

Local Gov - What are minimum rates?

These are a specific type of rate, where a minimum amount may be levied on each parcel of land, regardless of land value.  Some, but not all, councils levy minimum rates.  Councils need to apply to IPART for minimum rate increases when they levy minimum rates in a particular rating category or sub-category and seek to increase these rates above what is referred to in the Local Government Act 1993 (the Act) as “the statutory limit”.

Local Gov - What is the statutory limit for minimum amounts of special rates?

Minimums for special rates are treated differently to minimums for ordinary rates under the Act (section 548(3)(b)).  The statutory limit for special rate minimums is set at $2 in the Act which means that councils must apply every time they wish to increase the minimum amount of a special rate, even if just by the rate peg.

Local Gov - How do IPART assess applications for minimum rate increases?

IPART assesses minimum rate applications in accordance with the guidelines published by the Division of Local Government (DLG) Minimum Rate Guidelines.  The Guidelines can be found on our website here.

IPART will undertake an assessment of the application overall rather than a checklist of the criteria.

Water Pricing

Water - What retail prices does IPART set?

In Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Illawarra, the Hunter, Central Coast and Broken Hill we set the maximum retail prices for water and sewerage services charged by:  

We also set the maximum prices for stormwater drainage, trade waste, recycled water, and a range of ancillary and miscellaneous services provided by these water utilities. 

Water - What bulk water prices does IPART set?

We set maximum prices for the following bulk water suppliers: 

We also set maximum prices for the Water Administration Ministerial Corporation’s (WAMC’s) water management services.

WaterNSW is the main supplier of bulk water in the Sydney region.  It manages and protects Sydney’s drinking water catchments and catchment infrastructure, and supplies bulk water to Sydney Water.

WaterNSW also operates dams and weirs to deliver bulk water to irrigators and other licence holders on regulated rivers across NSW. 

The desalination plant is a key element in greater Sydney’s water security plan.  The desalination plant provides a source of non-rainfall dependent drinking water that can be relied upon when Sydney’s available water storage levels fall below a certain threshold.

WAMC’s water management services are currently undertaken on its behalf by DPI Water.  These services are provided to those who hold entitlements to take water from regulated rivers, unregulated rivers and groundwater sources across NSW.

Water - Does IPART set all water prices in NSW?

No.  IPART does not set water and sewerage prices for regional areas where services are provided by local water utilities or local government.  

For more information on local water utilities contact DPI Water.

Water - Why is my sewerage (wastewater) bill fixed?

There is a difference between the structure of residential charges for water (service and usage charge) and wastewater (service charge only).  There are two main reasons for this difference: 

Firstly, the costs of providing wastewater services are predominantly fixed costs.  That is, the cost of providing wastewater services remain mostly fixed regardless of how much wastewater is discharged into the network.  A major reason for this is that, unlike drinking water networks, wastewater networks are typically built above the capacity required to deal with wastewater discharges alone.  This is a design requirement to allow wastewater systems to minimise the frequency and scale of wastewater overflows during heavy rainfall.  

Secondly, while there is a small portion of wastewater costs that are variable, wastewater metering costs are very high compared to water metering costs.  Rolling out wastewater metering to facilitate usage charges would involve significant costs that would likely outweigh any benefits.

Water - I want a rebate for my water bill. Should I contact IPART?

No.  Rebates are set by water utilities. Here is more information about rebates and assistance.

Water - What if I don’t think I’ve been billed correctly?

For any complaints about your water service or pricing, your supplier’s contact details will be on your bill.  Contact them first so they are aware of the problem and have an opportunity to resolve it.  If they cannot resolve it immediately, they should deal with your complaint using their complaints procedure.  You can ask for a copy of this procedure. 

If you have a problem or dispute with your utility about billing or another matter, you can contact EWON for help in resolving your dispute.  However, EWON has no role or authority in setting prices.  This means it is not able to investigate complaints about price increases.  But it can review whether the relevant charges and prices have been correctly applied to your account.

Water - How can I reduce my water bill?

Here is information about ways to save money on your water bill.

WICA

What is WICA?

The Water Industry Competition Act 2006 (NSW) (WICA) seeks to harness the innovation and investment potential of the private sector in the water and wastewater industries. At the same time, the Act establishes a licensing regime for private sector entrants to ensure the continued protection of public health, consumers and the environment. Among other things, WICA sets out: 

  • when a licence is required

  • the procedure for applying for a licence how applications for licences are determined

  • how licensees' compliance with their licences is monitored and enforced .

WICA establishes mechanisms to resolve disputes between private sector bodies and their customers, and to protect customers in the event of the failure of a new market entrant.

WICA also establishes: 

  • an access regime under which an applicant may seek access to existing water industry infrastructure (see WICA Access regime for further details)

  • IPART as the arbitrator of disputes over access to infrastructure services and sewer mining disputes. 

WICA is supported by the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2008 (NSW) and theWater Industry Competition (Access to Infrastructure Services) Regulation 2007 (NSW).

Who needs a licence under WICA?

A person must obtain a licence under WICA to:

  • construct, maintain or operate any water industry infrastructure a network operator’s licence, or
  • supply potable or non-potable water or provide sewerage services by means of any water industry infrastructure a retail supplier’s licence, unless an exemption applies.

If you intend to undertake both types of activities, you must obtain a network operator’s licence and retail supplier’s licence.

An application for a licence may only be made by or on behalf of a corporation.  Either the owner or operator of the relevant water industry infrastructure can apply.

An application for a licence must be made to IPART. IPART will assess the application and then recommend to the Minister whether the licence should be granted and the licence conditions that should apply.

To be granted a licence, an applicant must satisfy the Minister that it has, among other things, the technical, organisational and financial capacity to carry out the activities that would be authorised by the licence (if granted).  One potential consequence of this requirement is that non-technical applicants may have difficulty in passing the technical capacity assessment unless they have engaged, and nominated in the application forms, suitably qualified third parties.

What is "water industry infrastructure"?

Water industry infrastructure refers to “water infrastructure” or “sewerage infrastructure.”

“Water infrastructure” means any infrastructure that is, or is to be, used for the production, treatment, filtration, storage, conveyance or reticulation of water, but does not include any pipe, fitting or apparatus that is situated:

  • downstream of a customer’s connection point to a water main, or
  • upstream of a customer’s connection point to a stormwater drain.

"Sewerage infrastructure" means any infrastructure that is, or is to be, used for the treatment, storage, conveyance or reticulation of sewage, including any outfall pipe or other work that stores or conveys water leaving the infrastructure, but does not include any pipe, fitting or apparatus that is situated upstream of a customer’s connection point to a sewer main. 

Who is exempt from WICA's licensing requirements?

You should not rely on the following as a substitute for legal advice about whether you are exempt from WICA’s licensing requirements.

If you wish to determine if you are exempt from the licensing requirements of WICA, you should seek your own legal advice on whether you meet the exemption requirements in WICA or in Schedule 3 of the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2008 (NSW).  Schedule 3 provides a complete list of water industry infrastructure that is exempt from the licensing requirements.

Some examples of exemptions include where the water industry infrastructure:

  • is constructed, maintained or operated by a public water utility in its area of operations (public water utilities are defined as State Water Corporation, Sydney Catchment Authority, Sydney Water Corporation, Hunter Water Corporation, a water supply authority within the meaning of theWater Management Act 2000, or a council or county council exercising water or sewerage functions)
  • is constructed, maintained or operated for or on behalf of a licensed network operator or a public water utility (for example, a private filtration plant operated on behalf of Sydney Water Corporation)
  • comprises water management works to which Chapters 4, 5 or 6 of the Water Management Act 2000 apply (for example, water management works installed by an irrigation corporation)
  • is a water supply work within the meaning of the Water Management Act 2000 that is used solely for the purpose of taking water pursuant to an entitlement under various provisions in Chapter 3 of that Act
  • is a work to which Part 2 of the Water Act 1912 applies, or is constructed under a licence issued under Part 5, Division 3 of that Act, that is used solely for the purpose of taking water pursuant to an entitlement created by various licences issued under Part 2 or Part 5, Division 3 of that Act (for example, a farm dam or irrigation channel taking water from a river)
  • is used solely for stormwater drainage purposes.

You are not required to apply for exemption.

Please note that in addition to exemptions from the licensing requirements of WICA, there are transitional arrangements in place that may delay the need to obtain a licence.

What transitional arrangements are in place?

You should not rely on the following as a substitute for legal advice about whether the transitional arrangements in WICA apply to you.

In addition to exemptions from WICA’s licensing requirements, there are transitional arrangements in place that may delay the need to obtain a licence.

For example, under the transitional arrangements, WICA’s licensing requirements do not apply to water or sewerage infrastructure that is wholly situated on premises owned by the one person and owned or controlled by the person owning the premises.

What is a network operator's licence?

Subject to the conditions of its licence and relevant legislation, a licensed network operator may construct, maintain or operate any water industry infrastructure.

Part 6 of WICA outlines the powers and duties of a licensed network operator in relation to its water industry infrastructure.  WICA licensees have powers and responsibilities comparable to those of a public water utility. For example, a licensed network operator may carry out work connected with the erection and placement of water industry infrastructure in or under public roads and public reserves (on certain conditions), and may require landowners to remove trees, structures and other things on their land that may be damaging the licensee’s infrastructure.

WICA and the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2008 set out prescribed licence conditions for licensed network operators. These conditions relate to provision of information, commercial operation of water industry infrastructure, ensuring a safe and reliable network, environmental protection, codes of conduct, and infrastructure operating, water quality, and sewage management plans.  Certain licensed network operators must also belong to an approved ombudsman scheme to deal with disputes and complaints involving entitled persons.  The Minister may also include other conditions in a network operator’s licence.

It is important to note that:

  • where required by WICA, a person must obtain a network operator’s licence BEFORE commencing CONSTRUCTION of water industry infrastructure
  • a licensed network operator must also obtain written approval from the Minister BEFORE bringing any new water or sewerage infrastructure into COMMERCIAL OPERATION. 
What is a retail supplier's licence?

Subject to the conditions of its licence and relevant legislation, a licensed retail supplier may supply potable or non-potable water or provide sewerage services by means of any water industry infrastructure.

WICA and the Water Industry Competition (General) Regulation 2008 set out prescribed licence conditions for licensed retail suppliers. Examples include requirements to:

  • belong to an approved ombudsman scheme to deal with disputes and complaints involving small retail customers
  • implement any applicable government policy with respect to social programs for the supply of water and provision of sewerage services, such as those to ensure that those services are available to people in need, including those suffering financial hardship and those living in remove areas
  • comply with the codes of conduct established pursuant to the Regulation.
What are the penalties for contravening the legislation (eg,not obtaining a licence when one is required) or a licence condition?

When a licensee contravenes WICA or the regulations (eg, by not obtaining a licence when required to do so) or a condition of its licence, the Minister or IPART may take a range of enforcement actions. Such actions could include (among other things):

  • imposing a monetary penalty not exceeding $500,000 for the first day of the contravention, and $20,000 for each subsequent day (not exceeding 25 days)
  • requiring a licensee to take such action as the Minister or IPART considers appropriate, such as notifying customers of specified information or taking specified action to rectify the contravention
  • cancelling or suspending the licence
  • declaring that the licensee is a disqualified corporation, or its directors disqualified individuals, for the purposes of WICA.

Some of these enforcement actions can only be taken by IPART if the Minister concurs.

See also Energy and water licence compliance policy which outlines our licence compliance/ enforcement procedures

What are the fees and costs associated with obtaining and holding a licence?

Fees and costs associated with obtaining and holding a licence include:

Application fees

The application fee for a network operator’s licence is $2,500.

The application fee for a retail supplier’s licence is $2,500.

If you are applying for both a network operator’s licence and a retail supplier’s licence, the fee is $5,000.

Annual licence fees

For licensed retail suppliers, annual licence fees vary according to average daily throughput. Fees range from $1,000 for “small” scale schemes to $6,000 for “large” scale schemes.

For licensed network operators, fees vary according to the volumetric capacity of the supply of the infrastructure to which their licences relates. Fees range from $2,000 for “small” scale schemes to $9,000 for “large scale” schemes.

Audit costs

Audit costs vary, but usually represent the bulk of compliance costs for licensees. 

Please note that audits are required to determine:

  • the adequacy of your licence plans
  • whether the infrastructure is capable of operating safely and in accordance with your licence plans before it is brought into commercial operation (for licensed network operators only) and
  • ongoing compliance (once licensed).

We understand that a compliance audit of a complex scheme can cost approximately $30,000.

Insurance report costs

Applicants for new schemes and licensees of existing schemes must provide a report from an insurance broker who holds an Australian financial services licence under Part 7.6 of theCorporations Act 2001 (Cth) that authorises the broker to provide financial product advice for, and deal in, contracts of insurance within the meaning of Chapter 7 of that Act. This report is required at the time of application (for new schemes) or within 6 months of being licensed (for existing schemes). The cost of obtaining such a report will vary according to the circumstances, but we understand it may cost approximately $10,000 - $15,000 to obtain.

Ombudsman scheme membership fees

A licensed retail supplier supplying water or providing sewerage services to small retail customers is required to join an approved ombudsman scheme. This requirement also applies to certain licensed network operators.

Licensees should contact the Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW (opens in a new window)  (EWON) to determine what membership and usage fees apply. 

 

How long does it take for IPART to process a licence application? What are common causes for delay?

IPART is committed to undertaking a through, efficient and transparent assessment of WICA licence applications.

To enable this we have defined a target timeline, or 'clock', of 34 weeks for our assessment.

It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure its application form is complete and that it has provided all required information (including supporting documentation) to enable IPART to process the application.

IPART will notify the applicant if IPART assesses that an application is incomplete, and will not process the application any further until the applicant provides any required outstanding information (ie, the IPART 'clock' will be off). The 'clock' restarts when an amemded application has been approved by IPART as a 'complete' application.

Notionally, our 'clock' will stop whenever the licence applicant has been requested to provide additional information. Requests for a additional information (RFIs) will be issued as required, with the number of RFI's issued directly related to the quality of the information supplied, the nature of the scheme, submissions from stakeholders, and the input of external stakeholders.

If an applicant does not submit a completed application form or supporting documentation, or does not promptly address IPART’s subsequent RFI's, the total processing time can increase.

Common causes of delay in processing applications include applicants providing:

  • insufficient information in the public version of the application.
  • insufficient information about the relevant company structure and relevant contractual arrangements.
  • inconsistent information in the application form.

Applicants should also note that the Minister, after receiving IPART’s recommendation, makes the decision about whether to grant a licence or refuse the application. IPART's target timeline applies only to the time for a recommendation to be made by IPART, and forwarded to the Minister.

See our WICA assessment timeline for more details.

I have read these FAQs and am ready to apply for a WICA licence. What do I do next?

Please download the application form and read the instructions contained within.

If you are considering applying for a WICA licence, we strongly suggest you contact the Water Licensing Team at IPART on 9113 7722 or email narelle_berry@ipart.nsw.gov.au to arrange a time to meet with us before you apply.

 

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