By Michael Giles
THE community, our readers at the Sentinel-Times, are going to be sick and tired of hearing about the retarding basin at Walkerville long before it ceases to be an issue at the South Gippsland Shire Council table.
Or so it seems, if last month’s council meeting and this month’s agenda are anything to go by.
Your eyes are probably glazing already.
I’m certainly sick of hearing about it.
And it’s a damn shame that it’s taking so much of the council’s time and energy when there are so many more pressing issues to be considered.
Reviewing the shire’s coastal development strategy, for example, so that growth, development and necessary infrastructure can be directed into the appropriate areas, while protecting our beautiful environment, is certainly one such issue that the council should be getting on with as a matter of urgency.
But, unfortunately, the retarding basin and the shire’s 1990 agreement with Ansevata Nominees, a firm associated with the family of Cr Jeremy Rich, is a real sticking point for the shire council at the moment.
Cr Andrew McEwen claims the shire is exposed to costs of up to $1.5 million to fix the problems not only with the capacity of the retarding basin but also with the quality of the water in the basin which he claims has been contaminated by runoff and septic discharge from the Promontory Views Estate.
A report to council next week says $20,000 will fix it.
Never mind that it was constructed in the first place to perform exactly that role, catching any discharge from the estate.
But is seems that everyone is playing ducks and drakes, even quite literally, with the testing data that allegedly backs up Cr McEwen’s claims about contamination.
The solution: get the data on the table, more data if necessary, and have an expert review its significance.
Having decided whether it has any significance at all, then decide if it has any relevance to the agreement, which by my reading of the agreement it does not.
Nowhere does it say that the water in the retarding basin will be of a certain quality, only that it be available for use by the adjoining landowner. It’s a retarding basin for goodness sake, not a farm dam!
If necessary, the shire should get a definitive legal ruling on this, if it can’t come to a reasonable agreement with Ansevata.
And one wonders how much of council’s time this issue would be chewing up if Cr Rich was not a member of the council, acknowledging that he has exempted himself from all sessions where this matter has been discussed.
Build a bridge council, we’re over it!