Builder 'held to ransom' over sewerage connection
AN IPSWICH builder says a government agency is "holding him to ransom" over a sewerage connection it didn't even know existed.
Queensland Urban Utilities is refusing to release certificates to Paul McPhillips, proving the connection's existence and without it his council building plans won't be approved.
Each time Mr McPhillips fulfils Queensland Urban Utilities requests to pay fees with an understanding the certificate will then be issued, he's been given another request.
The latest is a demand for him to supply CCTV footage from inside the sewer line to prove it's in good working order.
Queensland Urban Utilities says it's acting under the legislation and is working with Mr McPhillips to resolve the issues.
Mr McPhillips, who has been working as a builder in Ipswich for 14 years, isn't convinced saying each time he deals with QUU, he experiences "gross incompetence and misinformation".
The block in question is at Flinders View and is in the process of being subdivided.
The two separate sewerage connections were already installed when Mr McPhillips bought the land.
The pipes are clearly visible but QUU has no record of the additional connection.
In November QUU told Mr McPhillips he needed to prove the connection existed or pay a fee for a new connection.
He was assured that once the photographs were received the certificate would be issued.
When the photographic evidence was supplied, Mr McPhillips was told he then needed to pay $52 for an engineering search, again with the promise the certificate would then be issued.
The fee was paid, but then QUU told him to submit a new, and different, application so they can "capture" the relevant infrastructure charges.
He was told to pay $5373.91 in infrastructure charges, for the sewerage connection with QUU saying there was no record the fee had already been paid when the lines were installed.
Initially he refused to pay, believing the fee would have been paid by the original developer, but without the certificate the subdivision can't be finalised, so he paid.
Instead of issuing the relevant certificates as promised, QUU has now asked for Mr McPhillips to pay for CCTV footage of the sewer line to ensure it's in good working order.
On top of that, it wants him to make an application for an easement to cover the sewerage infrastructure, at a cost of $1320. That $1320 covers only the cost of filing the document - that request was the last straw.
"It's an absolute joke to be honest," Mr McPhillips says.
"It's their infrastructure - how is it my responsibility to ensure it's in good order? And in the same breath, how is it my problem they don't have records showing the infrastructure fees were paid?
"If we put an easement there, we won't be able to build the house we want.
"Their records are so poor, they didn't even know the connection was there in the first place.
"I feel like they just change the rules to suit themselves and squeeze as much money as possible out of everyone.
"See developers just pass these costs onto the customers without them knowing because it's easier than arguing. The saying in Ipswich is 'the developer pays' but the developer actually never pays, it's the consumer that unknowingly picks up the bill.
"So QUU is just taking money off people who don't know better. The number of times I have rung up and been given the completely wrong information.... I'm not an idiot, I know how this works."
According to the QUU website, there are no specific rules as to when infrastructure charges apply, instead they are assessed on an individual basis for each development.
QUU manager Glenn Ziernik says infrastructure charges cover the cost of extra demand placed on the network from an additional lot and the fact the infrastructure is already installed, doesn't mean charges don't apply.
He also says an easement is a common condition of many development approvals.
"In this case, it was necessary to ensure our crews can access a sewer maintenance hole for activities such as inspections, cleaning and clearing potential blockages," Mr Ziernik said.
"We encourage developers to become familiar with what's required to meet current legislation and design codes."
QUU initially declined to inspect the property, first suggested by Mr McPhillips in November. After being contacted by the QT, QUU has organised a meeting at the property on Monday.