Lack of water and water metering were hot topics in the 1980s.
Lack of water and water metering were hot topics in the 1980s. John McCutcheon

BIG READ: What six Bundy letter writers had to say in 1988

LETTERS to the editor are one of the NewsMail's most popular sections and have been for decades.

But do you ever wonder how the debates have evolved and changed over the years?

We took a look back at a letters page from Monday, March 14, 1988 to travel back 31 years and see what locals were talking about all that time ago.

The snapshot provides an interesting glimpse into an era so very different but still very much the same.

Water metering

Just like today, council issues were a dominant talking point. And while paying for excess water use is now the norm, there was a time when the introduction of the charge caused waves of debate in the region.

Bronwyn Grigg, of Birks St, wrote in response to a letter by a Mr Gear talking about the installation of water meters to measure household usage.

"My family and I have recently moved to Bundaberg from Townsville, a large city that has both a water shortage and water meters," she said.

She said she believed the Townsville council did not set out its fees fairly at the time.

"As the council needs to predict funds for the budget, a limit is set and any amounts of water used to this limit are charged as basic rate. People using over this limit are then charged excess water rates. Therefore, it is not really a pay-as-you-use scheme," she wrote.

Ms Griggs said while debate had raged over water meters and how they worked and charged locals, the bigger issue they failed to address was a lack of water to start with.

"Once we have the water then we can start thinking about metering it," she said.

JA Fichera of Miles St expressed shock at comments from the then mayor that those against metering water were simply water wasters.

"I believe the council would be better advised to publish all the facts, including the exact allocation the average ratepayer would receive; if this allocation would vary with the size of blocks as does the rates and the additional cost to the ratepayer for excess water before such suggestions are circulated," they wrote.

"I find it distasteful that debate has dropped to this level and believe many people have doubts about spending such a large amount of our money on an idea which will not increase the total amount of water by one drop, but will somehow give us what has been promised by successive councils for years. It seems to me that this scheme could be easily converted into an indirect way of increasing our rates under the guise of excess water usage, if the allocation is inadequate."

In 2019, Bundaberg Regional Council still charges for excess water usage, in a move its website says was recommended by the State Government to all councils years ago in a move to save water.

"Most councils in Queensland adopted 100 per cent of the government's recommendations, and those councils were charging up to 10 times what Bundaberg was charging for water access," it says.

The council adopted 80 per cent of recommendations.

Most residential ratepayers have a 20mm water meter linked to a 20mm pipe which supplies sufficient water for normal household needs.

 

Woolgoolga Pool. 24 January 2018
Pools are now required to be fenced. Trevor Veale

Pool fences

THE 1980s were another era indeed.

It was a time before pool fences became law.

Perhaps thinking a little ahead of their time, Y Luhrs of Walla St wrote to the paper urging Bundaberg people to "wake up".

"Haven't any of you people with unfenced pools got a conscience?" the letter said.

"Don't any of you have small children or are all yours grown up and able to look after themselves?"

Letter writer Luhrs asked locals to spare a thought for people in their street with small children who could be in danger due to a yard with an unfenced pool.

"You people who have to live nextdoor to unfenced pools, start doing something now, before it's too late," they said.

"Dobbing on a neighbour is far less tragic than losing a child."

While pool safety became a recognised issue in Australia as long ago as the 1960s, some states did not introduce hard and fast laws until the 2000s.

Queensland's came into effect in 2010.

Comment on council

JUST like today, there were letters for and against many institutions.

In this batch, Tony Tubbenhauer from Burnett Heads thanked council staff for being police and helpful but also said councils needed to be held to account.

"In a district where three councils have offices within metres of each other; where we have nearly 30 aldermen and councillors; three town clerks; three lots of office and outside staff; three computer systems; in fact, three of everything including inefficiencies, all to serve not much more than 50,000 people, then local government must be everyone's business; irrespective of boundaries," Tony wrote.

Tony also mentioned playing "Russian roulette" on the city's "jungle covered" roundabouts.

In 2008, the region's various councils amalgamated into the current Bundaberg Regional Council.

As of the 2016 Census, there were 92,897 people living in the Bundaberg region.

Call for diversity

PETER McKay could have written his letter to the editor focuses on a topic still being talked about in politics today.

The Theodore St man complained that while the council was there to represent the people, there were no women and no young man councillors.

"Sure the city needs some big businessmen, but it also needs some young family men, and women, to obtain a truer blend of the people who live and work in this fine city."

Water the big issue

IT WASN'T just the topic of water metering that had feathers ruffled in the last 80s.

EJ Bauer of Ashfield Rd slammed water restrictions on household gardeners.

In an era before Paradise Dam, letter writers joined fierce debates about water supply, even suggesting dams on the Burnett to fix the region's woes.

EJ Bauer said household gardeners had been made scapegoats for water usage.

"As did previous councils, this one discriminated against against only householders, and made them the scapegoats for all water problems, while it allowed all other users free rein and doubled fines."