Rural residents have accused Wangaratta Council of a “cover up” over plans to charge $150 for forced sewerage system inspections.
Discussions at this week’s council meeting became heated when residents demanded answers for why they were only just being informed of the extra costs.
Costly inspections are on the table for all Victorian rural residents with a sewerage system after the government required councils to develop a Domestic Waste Water Management Plan, creating a database of properties with sewerage systems.
Indigo Council confirmed its draft plan will go before councillors in the coming months.
Wangaratta Council development services director Barry Green said inspections would locate “hot spots” where there are smells or mosquito infestations and the council would ask North East Water to look into the issues.
“We’ve had instances where no one actually knew where some of these pipes were,” he said.
“At this stage we’re hoping these might just be annual costs for people to report on an inspection of their system, but it will depend on the system.
“They might just require a biennial or even a three-to-five year inspection.”
Dubbed the “poo tax”, residents will have to pay $150 to allow council officers to conduct the inspection.
Greta West resident Gary Marsh told the meeting it was “bulls---” that people had to pay to prove their system was working properly.
“Why should I get charged for something that works, that council signed off on when the house was built? It’s not fair, a lot of people can’t afford that,” he said.
“A lot of people know nothing about this so it’s pretty poor on council’s behalf not to let people know this was going to happen.”
The backlash led councillors to delay making a decision for two months, after a motion from Cr Harry Bussell, so they can properly consult with those in 3500 to 4500 Wangaratta homes with sewerage systems.
“Clearly there has not been enough consultation, there is no doubt about that. It just looks like a poo tax,” he said.
Cr Mark Currie compared the potential of health dramas from sewerage system that are not maintained properly to the “Black Plague”, which killed tens of millions of people in the 14th century.
“Not all systems are running as they should be. The EPA has a strong set of rules and not everyone is following,” he said.