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Shire cleared in boats dispute

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December 04, 2017

CAMPASPE Shire has been cleared of any wrongdoing after a complaint was lodged over its dealings with Echuca Paddlesteamers.

The complaint was from a paddlesteamer competitor who claimed council was charging Echuca Paddlesteamers a discounted rate on costs, such as leasing and mooring, and arrangements were made for a Port Pub and Paddlesteamer product which was not offered to other businesses.

The Office of the Commissioner for Better Regulation wrote to council this month to explain its decision over the competitive neutrality (CN) complaint.

‘‘The Victorian Government’s Competitive Neutrality Policy applies to significant business activities of publicly-owned entities,’’ acting assistant director Mike Pottenger said in the letter.

‘‘The underlying objective of the policy is that government businesses should not be at any net competitive advantage as a result of their public sector ownership.’’

The letter noted that Echuca Paddlesteamers is a business run and owned by council, that the complainant is a private business and is the only competitor in the Port of Echuca precinct.

‘‘Council has in the past offered Echuca Paddlesteamers a discount on council charges to provide a Port Pub and Paddlesteamer product which offers customers a ticket for a paddlesteamer ride and a meal at a nearby pub for a reduced price,’’ Mr Pottenger said.

The OCBR recommended that to ensure compliance, council should review the way in which leasing between council entities was treated in its CN assessments and ensure Echuca Paddlesteamers paid the same costs that would be charged to another competitor providing similar goods or services.

‘‘It is good practice for the council to be transparent about the way in which it is complying with CN policy to maintain public trust in the provision of services,’’ Mr Pottenger said.

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