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Tassal Dam at Taxpayers' Expense and Ratepayers' Risk

25 Jan 2017

Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens' Environment spokesperson

Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council’s decision to approve the construction of the dam, paid for from a Treasury loan, will means ratepayers are stumping up funds for the next 30 years to benefit a large private company.

Glamorgan-Spring Bay is a small council and this Treasury loan will increase their net debt by 1000%, from $661,000 to $6.6 million.

It’s an unfortunately typical Tasmanian tale of private companies working behind closed government doors, on a deal where taxpayers pick up the tab.

This is a $4.5 million loan to build a dam that TasWater has previously argued is not financially viable, to supply a proposed salmon farm that’s still being reviewed.  The ”business case” provided to councillors at last night’s meeting has more holes than a moth-eaten jumper.

Treasurer, Peter Gutwein, needs to come clean about the exact terms of the loan to build Tassal’s dam.  On the face of it, he appears to have gifted a private profit-making company an annual debt-free loan at taxpayers’ expense, and ratepayers' risk.

The terms of the loan are not known, and were not revealed to councillors.

If the terms were those of an interest-free loan, the government would usually get a commercial rate of 4.08% on its assets.  This would mean Tasmanians subsidising Tassal around $180,000 in the first year alone, with subsidies continuing over the next 30 years.

At last night’s meeting, councillors only saw a draft business plan, which had less than half a page of financial and risk information.  When two councillors questioned and opposed the dam, they were ridiculed for asking reasonable questions and challenging the process.

Why would Tassal take out a loan when they can get one at a lower government interest rate and have ratepayers bear the risk?  

If Tassal's expansion goes ahead, its company shareholders will take the profits. If their proposal doesn’t proceed or if the company walks away before the loan is repaid, however, Glamorgan-Spring Bay residents will be left to pick up the tab.