Annual Report 2017-2018 OmbudsmanNT
Tabled paper 934
Tabled Papers for 13th Assembly 2016 - 2020; Tabled Papers; ParliamentNT
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38 BILLS, BILLS, BILLS This report discussed how the Power and Water Corporation (PWC) has dealt with, and should deal with, billing and debt management for water supply to urban indigenous communities. Residents of indigenous communities are in a special position because of the nature of land tenure in those communities. No matter how many houses sit within a community, community title usually vests in one incorporated body. No matter how long a person has lived in a house, the house is not owned by that person. This group tenure has many implications for individual householders. Among them is the relationship they have with essential service providers. The report raised no issue with group tenure in indigenous communities. It did not suggest that individual tenure is superior or the preferred model. However, it did conclude that there are differences arising from group tenure that should be recognised and accommodated by organisations such as PWC. The report discussed the special arrangements that have previously been put in place by PWC in recognition of the special position of indigenous community residents and the rationale for continuing and enhancing those arrangements. It dealt primarily with one urban indigenous community but the discussion has broader relevance to similar communities throughout Darwin and other urban areas. The central finding of the investigation was that it is essential for an effective process to be refined and implemented, in consultation with each relevant indigenous community, to ensure that each individual householder contributes equitably towards their share of water costs. The recommendations made in the report are set out below. 1. That PWC having a responsibility to individual householders in the Bagot Community who paid money to it for the supply of water to their households in consultation with BCI, take all reasonable steps to reconcile and credit/repay overpayments by those individuals. [It is noted that compliance with this recommendation is contingent on PWC obtaining detailed tenancy information from third parties (from BCI or potentially from individual householders)]. 2. That PWC promptly move to reinstate a process that recognises and facilitates payments by individual householders in the Bagot Community for the supply of water services. That the process be developed in consultation with the NT Government and Bagot Community representatives, taking into account the factors and issues discussed in Chapters 2 and 3 of this Report. 3. That the NT Government and PWC undertake wide-ranging consultations with representatives of relevant indigenous communities to discuss the best approach or approaches to recognising and facilitating payments by individual householders in indigenous communities and in doing so give careful consideration to the option of providing PWC meters for individual houses and discrete billing for individual householders. 4. That PWC, in consultation with the NT Government and relevant community representatives, review its approach to management of current debt owed by indigenous communities 5. That consultations be undertaken utilising the services of Indigenous interpreters where necessary and records of consultations be widely published within relevant communities. 6. That PWC review its billing and debt management practices to ensure that it has in place appropriate mechanisms for flexible and timely debt management in the future.