Cr Lorraine Brunt receives a petition from Nyora resident Charlie Tagliaferro, signed by 160 local residents, calling on council advocate on their behalf to South Gippsland Water for all residents to be included in the sewerage scheme and for those who have to pay $5000, to be offered a payment plan. M013914
THE communities of Nyora, Poowong and Loch will be left exposed to the health risks associated with ground water contamination because of the payment scheme adopted by South Gippsland Water for the long-awaited local sewerage project.
That’s the view of Nyora resident and community activist Charlie Tagliaferro, who told the South Gippsland Shire Council last week that the $21 million cost of the scheme would be wasted if it left the communities with the same problems they have at the moment of “sewage flowing down the streets”.
“Kids really got sick because of this. They should have made it affordable for everyone so that it could be fixed for the future.”
At fault, he says, is the two-tiered system of payment adopted by the water authority whereby the 370 landowners compulsorily included in the scheme pay $800 and those offered the option to join (about 140 others) pay $5000.
“The vast majority of them tell me they simply can’t afford to connect and with only half the area joining the scheme, we’re concerned that the health issues behind this project will not be solved.”
Of the 140 opt-ins, about 120 of these are in Nyora.
Mr Taliaferro said it was ridiculous for South Gippsland Water to offer a payment plan for the $800 customers, without extending the same opportunity to $5000 customers who have to pay up front.
He said they could also up for a similar amount in private contractors’ fees.
In a petition signed by 194 people, many of them affected property owners, he has called on council to advocate on behalf of residents for South Gippsland Water to bring in a suitable payment scheme.
Here’s what the petitioners want:
“We the undersigned are petitioning to have the Loch, Nyora and Poowong sewerage voluntary scheme available for a payment plan, similar or the same as the compulsory Loch, Nyora and Poowong sewerage scheme.”
The petition was received by Cr Lorraine Brunt at last week’s council meeting, after a public presentation by Mr Tagliaferro, and will lay on the table until the next meeting when the council will make a formal response.
But Cr Brunt has already made up her mind.
“It’s good to see that you’ve picked up on this,” Cr Brunt said.
“I agree there are bigger problems in the larger allotments, that the waste water sits in drains and there are septic problems. They won’t be able to subdivide until they get sewerage.”
She supports the idea that a payment plan be offered to those on $5000 option.
In fact, she thinks it’s counterproductive that everyone wasn’t included in the scheme in the first place.
“It wouldn’t have cost much more to have everyone in it,” she said.
Several other councillors made supportive remarks, noting however that the overall cost to local residents was still a very favourable outcome.
Despite the public action, South Gippsland Water has ruled out offering a payment plan.
‘No subsidy available’
In a statement this week, the authority has acknowledged receipt of the petition from the Nyora community seeking a payment plan for the voluntary area but has confirmed it will “not be offering a payment plan to properties choosing to connect to sewerage within the Voluntary Area”.
“The Poowong, Loch and Nyora Sewerage Scheme is the last of the mandated $800 owner contribution through the State Government Small Towns Water and Sewerage program. Payment plans associated with the $800 Service Area were also mandated through the State Government Initiated Scheme. Future schemes will be constructed under a full-cost recovery/user pays model.
“The cost to construct the scheme, including additional reticulation pipework for the Voluntary Area is in excess of $40,000 per property. Therefore, it can be concluded that the Poowong, Loch and Nyora Sewerage Scheme is being largely funded by higher tariffs charged to South Gippsland Water customers across the region.
“The Voluntary Service Area contains larger sized allotments that have the ability to deal with the effluent on site via well maintained, complying septic waste systems. South Gippsland Water recognises that the full cost of connection may be prohibitive to a number of property owners. However, these customers firstly have the choice whether to connect and secondly at a subsidised cost ($5000), that is very competitive compared to a new on-site waste water treatment system or a user pays sewerage scheme.
“While we appreciate the community concern and desire to connect to the scheme the Corporation must be mindful of tariff implications for customers across the region as a result of increased expenditure and/or Corporation debt levels.
“A number of low interest or interest free loans (up to $3000) are available to eligible persons; further information with respect to these loans can be found at http://goodmoney.com.au/.
Customers seeking further information or wishing to discuss the scheme, please call 1300 851 636.