The United Services Union has warned that Central Coast Council’s review into local water and sewerage operations is the first step in opening the door to the sell-off of these vital community services by the cash-strapped council.

Central Coast Council, whilst under administration, has announced an independent review into how water and sewer operations are managed, which will examine options including the full privatisation of the services, a transition to a council-owned corporation, and a joint service with Hunter Water.

The USU said the publicly-owned water and sewer infrastructure — which the council says is worth nearly $4 billion dollars — not only provides an essential community service, but also generates ongoing income for the council.

“The privatisation of water and sewer services would be catastrophic for the Central Coast community,” USU organiser Luke Hutchinson said.

“These services not only provide a reliable, affordable, essential service, they generate ongoing income, making their retention in public hands vital to turning around the financial crisis that saw Central Coast Council placed into administration.

“The Central Coast is already struggling with the effects of the COVID pandemic and ongoing lockdowns, the last thing they need is for their water and sewerage assets to be sold off to private interests.

“If water and sewerage assets are sold off, it will lead to higher bills, lower service levels, and the loss of good local jobs with profits going to investors ripping apart an established community owned entity.

“The Central Coast community needs to send a clear message that the sell-off of local essential services is not an acceptable way to address Council’s financial mess.”

USU General Secretary Graeme Kelly OAM said: “A sale of these assets — owned by the local community, paid for by the local community — would see them run for the profit of their new owners, with profits ripped out of the community going to big end of town investors rather than being used in the best interest of the Central Coast community.

“The threat of privatisation is being met with disbelief by Central Coast Council workers who have already faced 10 months of uncertainty due to the current financial crisis, including the loss of 287 jobs.

“Now they are seeing their years of dedication delivering their local community a gold standard water and sewerage service being offered up to the highest bidder.

“The USU has a very strong and proud record of protecting jobs and community assets and is committed to leading a vigorous and continuous campaign against any move to sell these community owned assets.

“Council services should be delivered by council workers.”

Media contact: Luke Hutchinson — 0419 761 323