Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
IPART stands for the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW.
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.
We make the people of NSW better off through independent decisions and advice.
- We act with integrity
- We earn trust
- We deliver excellence
IPART comprises of the Tribunal and Secretariat.
The Tribunal includes up to 3 permanent members who are appointed by the Minister for Customer Service. 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:
- Ms Carmel Donnelly, Chair
- Ms Deborah Cope, Part Time Member
- Ms Sandra Gamble, 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, Ms Liz Livingstone. 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.
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.
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 Have your say page.
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.
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.
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.
This website contains all IPART documents published since 1996, view our publications.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you have any questions, please contact us.
WAYS TO SAVE MONEY
CONSIDER MAKING SOME CHANGES
Swimming pools are the biggest single contributor to high energy bills, adding an average of $620 or more than 33% to the household energy bill.
Reducing the operating times for pumps and filters can save energy and money, and simply changing operating times can save you money if you have a time of use meter or if you can connect your pump and filter to an off peak electricity supply.
Second fridges can add an average of $300 to annual electricity bills, closely followed by spas.
Using your clothes dryer once a week will cost you $77 over a year. If you use it everyday that's $539.
GET SOME HELP
There is a plenty of advice and assistance to help you reduce energy consumption and save money.
HELP PAYING BILLS
- Department of Trade & Investment's Energy Assistance Guide
- See your energy retailer for payment plans and options.
GETTING THE BEST PRICE
The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) maintains Energy Made Easy a website to compare different energy offers
Energy Rating Website E3 Equipment Energy Efficiency
If you have a problem or dispute with your retailer 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.
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.
Each regulated suppliers’ historical prices are available below:
|EnergyAustralia||Integral Energy||Country Energy|
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.
The Office of Fair Trading has specific guidance on Customer Service Standards for the Supply of Electricity to Permanent Residents of Residential Parks.
HAVING TROUBLE PAYING YOUR BILL
If you are having trouble paying your gas or electricity bill, the first step is to speak to your energy company.
All energy retailers in NSW have programs to help customers with financial difficulties to pay their energy bills.
Your energy company's phone number will be on your bill.
ENERGY ACCOUNTS PAYMENT ASSISTANCE SCHEME (EAPA)
You may also be eligible for financial help through the NSW Government's Energy Accounts Payment Assistance Scheme (EAPA). This scheme funds the provision of EAPA vouchers to people having trouble paying their energy bills as the result of an emergency or crisis situation. The vouchers are provided to participating community welfare organisations - including St Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, Anglicare, the Smith Family, Lifeline and some Indigenous, migrant, neighbourhood and community centres. The $30 vouchers can only be used to pay natural gas or electricity bills. Customers need to apply to one of these organisations which will consider their circumstances and, if appropriate, provide assistance. The organisation assesses the customer's situation and determines each case based on individual circumstances.
For assistance call the Energy Information Line on 1300 136 888.
Energy retailers must develop, implement and publish detailed Customer Hardship Charters.
The Charters should include flexible payment options and appropriate financial counselling services.
If you are having trouble paying your bill, contact your energy retailer and ask them about the most suitable payment plan option for your circumstances.
Here is information on ways to save money
See the answers to questions that are asked often about the Energy Saving Scheme.
In NSW, retailers can choose whether or not to offer solar feed-in tariffs to their customers, and decide the level of the solar feed-in tariff that they offer. The AER's Energy Made Easy website provides information on feed-in tariffs available in your area.
However to help guide retailers and customers, each year IPART recommends a benchmark range for solar feed-in tariffs.
The NSW Department of Planning & Environment, Resources & Energy provides some useful information about how feed-in tariffs are calculated, reducing your energy consumption and what to do if you have an enquiry or complaint.
The Solar Bonus Scheme closed on 16 December 2016, in accordance with the original intention of the scheme. Now customers are better off under net meters, rather than gross meters. The NSW Department of Planning & Environment, Resources & Energy provides more information.
IPART also has a fact sheet which explains metering, tariff and other technology options available for solar customers and how they can continue to get the most benefits from their PV units after the Scheme ends.
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 of rates revenue, but also includes certain annual charges. It excludes storm water 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.
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.
The productivity factor is an adjustment to the LGCI to allow ratepayers to share in the efficiency gains made by councils.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2021-22, IPART calculated the rate peg of 2.0% by taking the increase in the Local Government Cost Index (LGCI) to June 2020 of 1.8%, setting the productivity factor to 0.0%, and adding an adjustment of 0.2% for the costs of the 2021 local government elections.
2020-21 - 2.6%
2019-20 - 2.7%
2018-19 - 2.3%
2017-18 - 1.5%
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%
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 significance
- covering 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).
IPART assesses applications for special rate variations in accordance with the criteria in the guidelines published each year by the Office of Local Government (OLG). The Special Rate Variations Guidelines are published on our website. The current criteria can be found in the Guidelines here.
Councils are required to consult with their communities regarding their expenditure and revenue plans as part of their Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or posted to:
Local Government Team
Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW
PO Box K35
Haymarket Post Shop, NSW 1240
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 Office 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, OLG could recommend that IPART vary or revoke a determination.
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”.
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.
IPART assesses minimum rate applications in accordance with the Minimum Rate Guidelines published by the Office of Local Government (OLG). 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.
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:
- Sydney Water
- Hunter Water
- The Central Coast Council (formerly Gosford Council and Wyong Shire Council), and
- Essential Energy (for Broken Hill).
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.
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 provided to those who hold entitlements to take water from regulated rivers, unregulated rivers and groundwater sources across 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.
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.
No. Rebates are set by water utilities. Here is more information about rebates and assistance.
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.
Here is information about ways to save money on your water bill.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 IPART’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy which outlines our risk based approach to compliance and enforcement.
Fees and costs associated with obtaining and holding a licence include:
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 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.
IPART is committed to undertaking a thorough, 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 amended 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 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.
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 9290 8412 or email Christine_Allen@ipart.nsw.gov.au to arrange a time to meet with us before you apply.
We are not suggesting major changes to the way tenants’ rent is calculated
Most tenants pay 25% of their household income in rent. Some pay between 25% and 30%. We think this is as much as they can afford. The Government would pay social housing providers the difference between the market rent and what the tenants pay.
Some tenants pay less than others with the same income because some of the benefits those tenants receive are fully or partially excluded in calculating their rent. We think all types of income for general living expenses should be treated the same, so tenants with the same income pay the same percentage in rent. Your rent would increase if you receive:
- Family Tax Benefits Parts A and B - currently, only 15% of this income goes towards rent, we think it should be 25%.
- Pension supplement - currently, this income is not counted towards rent. We think it should be counted when calculating the rent.
We are suggesting that if the increase in your rent is more than $10 a week due to the new calculation method, the increase would be phased in over time.
We do not think benefits for a special purpose, such as child care benefits or rebates, should be counted in the rental calculation.
Tenants who can afford to move out should pay a bit extra to stay
Some tenants currently pay market rent because their income is higher than the limit for rent assistance. We think these tenants can afford private rental housing. If your income is above the limit to receive rent assistance and you want to stay in social housing because it is more secure than renting privately, we think you should pay an extra 5% to reflect security of tenure.
Leases should have no defined end-date
We think all social housing leases should be continuous leases, so you can take up work opportunities without worrying about losing your social housing tenancy. If you are on a 2, 5, or 10 year lease, your next lease would be continuous – with no defined end-date. We are also proposing that Family and Community Services (FACS) would need to review your needs every few years to assess whether the property still matches your needs.
Tenants should get a 6 month freeze on their rent when their income increases
When you get a job or increase your work income, we think you should have 6 months’ breathing space before your rent changes. After 6 months, you should pay 25% to 30% of all your income, like other tenants. Or, if you are no longer eligible for rent assistance, you should have two choices:
- stay in social housing and pay the market rent plus 5% for security of tenure, or
- get one-off assistance to move to private rental – for example, a bond loan and rent in advance (like you can get now) as well as some moving expenses.
Tenants should get homes that fit their needs
We also think FACS should better match social housing properties to your needs. This would benefit you if your household includes:
- Children – you should be in a home that is close to a school.
- People who can work – you should be in a home that is close to jobs or training.
- People needing care – you should be in a home that is close to services you need (such as a hospital).
To do this, FACS would need to review your needs every few years, to assess whether the property still matches your needs. FACS may also need to help you move, if you live in a property that doesn’t match your needs.
You would not lose your place in the social housing waiting list when renting privately
When you move to private rental, we think you should be able to keep your place in the social housing waiting list for 2 years. This gives you a safety net. If you need to return to social housing you wouldn’t go to the end of the waiting list.
We think social housing needs better funding for maintenance and investment
We think that the Government should pay social housing providers the ‘gap’ between the tenant’s rent payment (25% to 30% of household income) and the market rent for the house or flat.
This would make sure the housing providers earn enough money to maintain social housing in a good condition, and to invest in new properties.
We also think FACS should better plan how many new properties of different sizes are needed, and where they are needed. FACS should then work with the social housing providers so these dwellings are built.
No, we are not suggesting changes to social housing eligibility.
No, we are not suggesting changes to private rental assistance.
If you are in public or community housing, everything above would apply to you.
If you are in Aboriginal Community Housing, the changes discussed above would not affect you at this stage.
There are already changes being made to how rents for Aboriginal Community Housing are set under the Build and Grow rent policy, overseen by AHO, and we support these changes.
However, we think FACS and the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) should talk with Aboriginal people to see whether our recommendations for better matching housing with the tenant’s characteristics and needs could be applied to Aboriginal Community Housing.