$8.8m Southside plan ‘one of most generous in Australia’
THE istallation of Southside’s long-promised sewerage scheme has backed up in recent years, making it and its future a popular question in the community since work stalled in 2017.
Now, the Gympie region’s new council has suggested any resurrection of the sceheme, once fully funded by the council, may hinge on the willingness to accept a user pays plan with one councillor labelling it “the most generous scheme in Australia”.
It was introduced in 2011, and in 2014, plans were rolled out for the work to be fast-tracked.
However, this would have cost some Southside residents up to $10,000 per household to connect, and the plan was scrapped in 2015, following community backlash.
Another $8.8 million in infrastructure is still needed to finish it off; it is supposed to be rolled out across nine more stages with Lasiandra Drive, Bethany Court and McIntosh Creek Road the next cabs off the rank.
Work on the $1.08 million stage eight was planned to start in 2018, but cancelled.
Now the new council is tasked with untangling the knot, and deciding who will foot the bill should the scheme resume.
“The Southside sewerage scheme, as it was being implemented, was perhaps the most generous scheme in Australia,” Division 5 councillor Dan Stewart said.
“I have had this concern for some years.
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“One needs to ask why should other ratepayers fully subsidise those in the Southside sewer scheme area.”
Mr Stewart said there were several options open to help recoup the expense, including long-term payment plans for those who directly benefitted from the connection, or shrinking the minimum block size so more ratepayers would be contributing.
However, he was “convinced the scheme should not resume in the next financial year” without a conversation with the landowners about how they can contribute.
Division 7 and Southside councillor Warren Polley, who said connecting Southside’s sewerage was an election goal but admitted during the campaign it would be expensive, said there was little doubt the scheme would require some form of user pays.
“It does not sit well with me that all GRC ratepayers contribute heavily towards a service that only Southside will receive the benefit of,” Mr Polley said.
However, he said some services, like free sewerage at Imbil, where “everybody pays in to provide services that the individual would never have or afford on their own,” and the Southside scheme, needed to be fully evaluated ahead of any decision.
“But then again... maybe we’ll find an infrastructure grant that does pay for it and we don’t have to ask for a user pays contribution,” he said.
Mayor Glen Hartwig shared Mr Polley’s view on evaluating the program, but “we would all love to see it rolled out but the reality is the money has to come from somewhere”.
And this, Divison 8 councillor Bob Fredman said, was the glaring hole in the plan right now.
“(There are) no loose millions around here any more,” Mr Fredman said.
Divison 4 representative Bruce Devereaux said the scheme was “inevitable” given the region’s growth.
“As for the cost, maybe we can take smaller steps rolling it out to make the expense more palatable,” Mr Devereaux said.
“It would be better than taking no steps at all and then residents would have some idea of when their property would be hooked up.
“I’m sure everyone would appreciate some certainty.
“Septic systems aren’t cheap and don’t last forever.
“I know what it’s like to have something indicated will be happening when you buy, and it doesn’t. I waited 20 years for a footpath which was happening ‘soon’.”
No other councillors responded to questions from The Gympie Times about their views on the program.