Bob Katter

19 December 2012 —The Queensland Government’s decision to scrap housing sustainability measures including rainwater tanks and solar, gas or heat pump hot water systems has been met with incredulity across the country.

Qld Housing Minister Tim Mander made the announcement earlier this week saying the changes would potentially reduce the cost of a new home by more than $5000.

Mr Manders said it would up to the individual if they wanted to install rainwater tanks or a different style of hot water system.

But lead Senate Candidate for the Queensland Greens Adam Stone said the changes were ridiculous.

“It is ridiculous to represent measures that will add substantially to the cost of living in a house as improvements to housing affordability,” he said.

“Electric hot water systems are hugely inefficient and drive up household electricity bills, and obviously without a water tank households will spend more on their water bills.  Any upfront savings will very quickly be eclipsed by spending more, year after year, on utility bills.

“This will be particularly hard on renters, who will pay the ongoing costs of the upfront savings enjoyed by property investors.

“A far more sensible and fiscally responsible option for improving housing affordability would be to stop wasting money on $15,000 payments to help with the purchase of new homes – payments that benefit the housing construction sector and recipients of the grant while inflating house prices for everyone.”

The Queensland Conservation Council has also described the move as short-sighted.

Executive director Toby Hutcheon said more Queenslanders would be relying on a centralised water supply which would mean more money to build and maintain dams.

“It is all massively expensive for the taxpayer,” he said.

“The more people that can capture water where they live, it ends up being cheaper for everybody.”

The Association of Building Sustainability Assessors has said “winding back the clock” on mandated home sustainability measures in Queensland was “bizarre”.

“The suggestion that Queensland will point itself in reverse on important energy, water and building policy is just bizarre and should be deeply concerning for every Queenslander,” chief executive officer Rodger Hills said.

“Let’s be very clear – home sustainability measures are not ‘green tape’, these are not affordability issues, they are consumer protection measures which stop people being locked into the pain and cost of living with homes that are not efficient, not future-proof and do not cater to cyclic drought conditions or energy price hikes,” he said.

“This daft policy reversal will guarantee the average Queensland homeowner will be worse off. To suggest that this is the way to make homes more affordable is just badly constructed political spin and not based on irrefutable evidence.

“Installing proven, cost-effective measures during the construction of a home such as rainwater tanks, energy efficient services and solar hot water systems means that householders won’t use as much electricity, gas and water now and for the life of the house– it’s a simple formula that the Queensland government just can’t seem to understand.”

The Queensland opposition wants the government to release the research behind its decision to scrap the tank laws.

Deputy opposition leader Tim Mulherin said the housing minister should also say if he will ensure the savings are passed on to home buyers.

“If house prices do not fall by the claimed saving of $5000 to $6000 then home buyers will effectively be paying twice for their rainwater tank,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Rainwater Harvesting Association of Australia spokeswoman, Jackie Hammond, said Queenslanders would face increased water restrictions and higher water costs.

“A tank costs relatively little to install in a new home and that amount is returned to the owner and the community ten-fold with reduced water costs,” she said.

“The government has bowed to pressure from the building industry, blindly believing that not having a rainwater tank will stimulate the residential sector when what it will really mean is that builders get to make more profit.”

Ms Hammond said the rain water had resulted in annual water savings of 90,000 litres for each home with household savings of more than $167.

And Bob Katter’s Australian Party leader Ray Hopper has also joined the voices of concern saying drought, rather than flood, was Queensland’s natural state.

“At a time when water storages in Queensland remain full, we should be looking at ways to protect our scarce resources so that they last into the future,” he said.

“This government should be saving for the rainy day. Instead, it is flushing water security down the drain.”