Department of the Legislative Assembly

ANSWERS TO WRITTEN QUESTIONS

26 November 2002

18. Power and Water – Late Payments

Mr DUNHAM to MINISTER for ESSENTIAL SERVICES

The minister, in Hansard on 15 August 2002 said with regard to processing late payments and agreements to pay: ‘this cost over $1m every day to administer’. Could the minister verify the figure?

ANSWER

According to Hansard for 15 August 2002, the then Minister for Essential Services, Mr Kon Vatskalis made the following statement:

"There has been much speculation about the introduction of late fees for late payment of PowerWater accounts.
Approximately two-thirds of the corporation's customers pay on receipt of a final notice, the pink notice - sometimes
I have done that myself.

In addition, many thousands of agreements to pay are processed. This costs over $1m every year to administer".

The amount of $1 million per annum is based on the following data:

Approximately 360,000 statements are sent out per annum. Approximately one third of all customers receive an overdue account notice. This represents approximately 120,000 overdue bill statements being printed at an estimated cost of $5.00 per transaction, a total cost estimated at $600,000 per annum.

Approximately 50,000 time-to-pay letters are sent out per annum. This represents approximately 14 per cent of the total statements sent out. The total annual costs associated with time-to-pay arrangements (excluding default payments and subsequent write-off actions) are estimated at $500,000.

21. Generators reliability in Yulara, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Darwin

Mr DUNHAM to MINISTER for ESSENTIAL SERVICES

Detail funding in the 2002-03 budget towards improving the reliability of the generators in Yulara, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Darwin.

ANSWER

Reliability is a function of maintenance and capital investment.

Generator set maintenance expenditure is determined by hours of operation of each set and also, for gas turbines, by the number of starts required of the set. So the expenditure can be quite “lumpy” with periods of high expenditure (particularly when a major overhaul of a Channel Island (Darwin) set falls due) followed by lower expenditure years. It tends not, therefore, to follow normal expenditure trends (such as increasing each year by CPI).

Anticipated expenditure this financial year provides for a $3 million major overhaul of Set 2, a gas turbine set and also repairs to the exhausts to Sets 1, 2 and 3 at Channel Island, plus a major overhaul on Set 8 at Ron Goodin in Alice Springs and so is higher than in recent years ($9.442m in 1999/2000, $9.368 in 2000/2001). At this stage, Generation anticipates a maintenance budget of $9.68m for 2003/2004.

Maintenance expenditure for 2002/2003 is as follows – the impact of the major overhauls is obvious:

          Channel Island Power Station
          $5,959,000
          Berrimah Power Station
          $715,000
          Katherine Power Station
          $641,000
          Tennant Creek Power Station
          $810,000
          Ron Goodin Power Station
          $1,465,000
          Yulara Power Stations
          $770,000
          Kings Canyon Power Station
          $125,000
          Remote Centres
          $615,000
          TOTAL
          $11,100,000

Darwin-Katherine is the total of Channel Island Power Station, Berrimah Power Station and Katherine Power Station, namely $7,315,000.

Alice Springs is Ron Goodin only (Energy World Corp owns Brewer Estate Power Station there).

23. Ilparpa Swamp Water Releases

Mr DUNHAM to MINISTER for ESSENTIAL SERVICES

The Minister for Central Australia set a benchmark of zero water releases for PowerWater facilities into Ilparpa Swamp. Does PowerWater agree that this benchmark is feasible?

ANSWER

The Controller of Water Resources issued a Waste Discharge Licence on 17 January 2003 under the Water Act for the Waste Stabilisation Ponds in Alice Springs.

The Power and Water Corporation is required to comply with the conditions of the licence and has provided a copy of the Waste Discharge Licence for reference.

Power and Water believes that the benchmark of zero overflows during dry weather prior to 31 December 2005 is achievable. Measures required to achieve this target are being developed and will be implemented. Power and Water is required to develop release rules for wet weather flow by 31 October 2004.

The question of release during wet weather is still under negotiation between Power and Water and the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment as a condition of the Waste Discharge Licence. However, it is pointed out that because of the extreme variability of wet weather events (such as the 1983 floods) there is a statistical probability of overflow if a sufficiently large event occurs.

26. Undergrounding Power for Darwin Northern Suburbs

Mr DUNHAM to MINISTER for ESSENTIAL SERVICES

$2.5m is allocated for the initial works for the undergrounding of power in Darwin’s northern suburbs. $1.5m from DIPE and $1m for PowerWater. How has this ratio been decided?

ANSWER

The amount of $2.5 million is incorrect. $1.5 million is to be contributed by DIPE and the Power and Water Corporation is contributing $500,000. A total of $2 million is allocated for the initial works for undergrounding.

The Power and Water Corporation has calculated that the Net Present Value of future savings in operations and maintenance expenditure flowing from the undergrounding project is $15 million, or approximately 20 – 25 per cent of the total net cost (depending on contributions from Darwin City Council, Telstra and Austar).

On this basis, Power and Water is contributing $500,000 of the $2 million in 2002/2003.

29. Community Service Obligation – Undergrounding Power in Darwin

Mr DUNHAM to MINISTER for ESSENTIAL SERVICES

Why was the $1.5m for undergrounding power in Darwin not treated as a Community Service Obligation?

Is this the only CSO to PowerWater to be treated in this way?

ANSWER

A community service obligation (CSO) payment is made by government to a Government Owned Corporation (GOC) to compensate the GOC for losses made in implementing government social policy. CSO payments are operational in nature – that is, they appear on the Statement of Income and Expenditure as revenue.

The $1.5m appears on the Capital Works Program, and is treated the same as expenditure for new roads, schools, police stations, etc. Power and Water treats this as a capital contribution; such contributions are also received from government as part of land development activities (eg provision of power, water and sewerage facilities to a new suburb). In addition, Power and Water receives such contributions from private developers and customers under the Distribution System Extension Policy (DSEP) and the Water and Sewerage System Extension Policy (WASSEP).

Power and Water requires a capital contribution wherever the expected net revenue from a capital project does not cover all of the capital related costs – ie return on capital and depreciation. In the case of the undergrounding project, a total reduction in operating costs is expected on completion of the project, however, the reduction in operating costs only justifies Power and Water funding part of the work. Consequently, a capital contribution is required to make the project commercially viable.

31. School Truancy

Mr MALEY to MINISTER for EMPLOYMENT, EDUCATION and TRAINING

1. What has the Northern Territory done to address the level of school truancy in Darwin and major towns?

2. What has been done to address the low levels of reading and writing skills in the Northern Territory schools?

ANSWER

One of the nine Strategic Outputs from the Department of Employment, Education and Training (DEET) 2002-03 ‘Plan on a Page’ is ‘Students who stay in school and attend regularly’. This output reflects the strong commitment by Government to positively influence student enrolment, attendance and retention in the Northern Territory school system.

A comprehensive enrolment, attendance and retention strategy has been developed by DEET and will be implemented over the next 12 months. The strategy addresses three main target areas:

irregular attenders and those students not enrolled
early school leavers
students exhibiting challenging behaviours, particularly of an extreme nature.

Key elements of the strategy are the deployment of School Attendance Officers and the establishment of alternative education provision to target youth presently not attending school.

Funding was allocated in the 2001-02 Mini Budget for the employment of eight School Attendance Officers. Two officers will be employed in 2002-03 with a further three being employed in 2003-04 and another three in 2004-05.

It is expected that the School Attendance Officers will be deployed for discrete periods of time to assist identified schools to achieve agreed attendance targets. Local solutions to achieve effective change will be developed and implemented. These local solutions will involve consultation with schools, school communities, the wider community and other relevant agencies and organisations.

The School Attendance Officers will be expected to develop good working relationships with other personnel likely to be attending to the same target group, such as the Youth Night Patrol workers and Child Protection Officers.

An interdepartmental committee is already working with the Palmerston Crime Forum to develop a pilot project in the community to be trialled under the DEET enrolment, attendance and retention strategy. Under this model it is expected that one of the first two School Attendance Officers could contribute to the development and implementation of this pilot project.

Funding of $0.5M was also allocated in the Mini Budget for the introduction of ‘diversionary programs to help get wayward students back into the classroom’. To avoid confusion with the Police Juvenile Diversionary program, the DEET strategy refers to ‘alternative education provision’.

The intention in the first instance is to target ‘wayward’ students in the 10-15 years age group, who are most likely to be truanting and/or engaged in anti-social activities. The programs provided at these future alternative education provision sites will be specifically aimed at enabling students to re-engage with regular schooling.

Initially it is proposed to establish two alternative education provision sites - one in Darwin’s northern suburbs and one in either Katherine, Tennant Creek or Nhulunbuy, catering for approximately 30 students per site at any one time, depending on local circumstances. Alice Springs already has a number of alternative education programs in place that during 2002 engaged over 150 young people who would otherwise not have been enrolled in educational programs.

The School Attendance Officers may assist in the identification of students and in encouraging them to attend each day. Other agencies and providers will also be consulted with a view to pooling resources and providing a coordinated service for the alternative education provision sites.

2. A major DEET initiative to address the low levels of reading and writing skills in NT schools is the NT English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. The Strategy was developed in 2001/02 and implementation commenced in 2002. It provides a sound basis for system and school-based accountability with the clearly identified objective that “All students achieve or exceed National English Literacy and Numeracy Benchmarks.” All Territory schools must

. ensure the School Literacy and Numeracy Plan is documented with an agreed consistent approach and ongoing
commitment by all staff to improving students’ English oracy, literacy and numeracy skills.

. ensure that explicit teaching and learning of English oracy, literacy and numeracy skills across the curriculum occurs
for at least two hours a day.

. set targets for literacy and numeracy achievement.

. make optimal use of available resources to support students’ and teachers’ needs, particularly indigenous and ESL
learners.

. rigorously and regularly assess, track and report student achievement against standards as identified in the NT
Curriculum Framework.

. ensure school commitment to the Multi-level Assessment Program (MAP) process and linking the process and results
at school and system levels with curriculum and assessment.

. focus attention on the early years of school, including identifying students at risk of not meeting the Benchmarks and
providing appropriate intervention programs.

The 2002 preliminary provisional NT English Literacy and Numeracy Benchmark results show an increase in numbers of students achieving Benchmark: 6.83% increase in Year 3 students reaching the National Reading Benchmark and 7% increase in Year 5 students reaching the National Reading Benchmark.

Another DEET initiative is the Training for Remote Youth Program (TRY). This project focuses on the introduction of Vocational Educational Training (VET) programs for 14 to 19 year olds in remote localities, particularly targeting those who have such poor attendance they are not considered to be at school. TRY emphasises programs being developed in partnership with the community, targeting the particular employment skills required by the community. Schools implementing TRY Programs are to articulate the literacy and numeracy support that will be provided in the TRY Program within their School Literacy and Numeracy Plan documentation. If there is no identified literacy and numeracy approach in the application, this will result in non funding of the project.

39. Fire Walls for Units at Litchfield Court

Mr MALEY to MINISTER for HOUSING

Why is the Minister for Transport and Infrastructure continuing to put the lives of residents of Territory Housing’s complex at Litchfield Court on Progress Drive, Nightcliff, in danger by his refusal to install firewalls between the units?

ANSWER

1. The townhouse units at Litchfield Court, Nightcliff, which do not have firewalls, have a Certificate of Occupancy issued at the completion of construction in 1982.

To complement and further improve fire safety at the townhouses my Department will install hard-wired smoke alarms before the end of June this year.
Last updated: 04 Aug 2016