East Gippsland Shire Council Mayor Cr Mark Reeves said increasingly unmanageable costs for natural gas is impacting East Gippsland households and businesses.
Reports this week, using data from the Energy Compare website, indicates that people in towns like Orbost and Lakes Entrance are paying more than double for natural gas than other Victorians.
Cr Reeves said the pricing was both inequitable and unfair and could impact whether businesses keep their doors open or families heat their homes.
“Getting natural gas into some of our communities, particularly through the ‘daughter station model’, took considerable time and came with its challenges. Now we have it, it appears residents and businesses are unfairly getting stung in a monopoly environment. There is no opportunity to shop around like there is in metropolitan areas,” he said.
“What stings more is gas is being sourced from Bass Strait, using local workers, and is being pumped past our nose to be bought cheaper elsewhere than what our communities are paying.”
Council is not the supplier or regulator for natural gas. It does purchase natural gas for use in some of its facilities, mainly recreational centres. Council has forecast an approximate 30 per cent increase in its gas costs this financial year.
The Mayor said Council would consider writing to the ACCC Gas inquiry 2017-30 to highlight its concerns about the inequitable pricing structure disadvantaging rural communities.
“I will also raise the issue with my One Gippsland colleagues (representatives of all other local governments in Gippsland), and with relevant government ministers.”
Compounding the problem for some households is the decision by the Victorian Government to end native timber harvesting, placing significant pressure on firewood contractors. The availability and price of firewood, as a heating source, is expected to become increasingly difficult for many people in our shire.
“Winter is fast approaching, and these cost-of-living pressures will be amplified,” Cr Reeves said.
Council encourages residents with concerns about their natural gas pricing to contact their retailer, or State and Federal MPs.