SOUTH Gippsland Water managing director Philippe du Plessis would not say whether the corporation would move its Foster headquarters to another town. A move to Leongatha has been rumoured.
Essential Service Commission director pricing and regulation Marcus Crudden said that while the corporation had sought to increase its price to customers by 25 per cent over the next five years, the claim had been rejected by the authority. Instead SGW has been forced to hold its prices at CPI for the next two years, until the next ESC pricing determination.
The determination has forced SGW to look at cost cutting measures to ensure its financial sustainability.
“SGW is working through long-term options for the whole of the business, based on the principle that a consolidated work centre for most of our workforce is the ideal,” SGW managing director Philippe du Plessis said.
“Any decisions such as this, including location, are complex and involve a range of stakeholders. The process is likely to take several months.”
Mr du Plessis said that “a number of South Gippsland Water’s buildings and depots are in need of significant repair and upgrade”.
“The Corporation is taking the opportunity to undertake a review of its facilities to determine the best customer outcome for future years,” he said.
”All options are being assessed with respect to SGW facilities.”
A move away from Foster would anger many locals who remember the circumstances surrounding the water board’s move to the town.
On December 2 1994, the abolition of the Shire of South Gippsland, saw a merger with the Shire of Mirboo, the Shire of Woorayl, and most of the Shire of Korumburra. The amalgamations gave rise to the South Gippsland Shire. One of the trade offs for Foster, after the loss of Council offices in the town, was that SGW set up shop.
Foster Chamber of Commerce and Industry president John Davies said locals would be “devastated by any downgrading of the role of the Foster works yard, let alone the loss of the indoor office staff”.
]“Good, middle income jobs are hard to find in any smaller town and South Gippsland Water offers these,” he said.
“The community greatly appreciates these positions. All jobs underpin the schools, kinders and childcare facilities and Foster has been able to offer these to families who seek work locally.”
Mr Davies also questioned the rationale behind a potential move. “I personally would question how South Gippsland Water would be able to operate cheaper if it moved to a larger town, if that is the aim,” he said.
“The SGW area is huge, stretching from Yarram to Wonthaggi. There is always going to have to be remote staff or depots to cover any eventualities or projects that are conducted.
“I would also question whether the purchase of land and construction of offices somewhere else would be more viable than what is now available.”
Mr Davies said he hoped talk of a move was “just a vicious rumour put out by someone who doesn’t like the drive here, but won’t move here”.