Coffs Coast councils going it alone

"LEAVE us alone - we're doing just fine the way we are."

This was the common message from Bellingen, Coffs Harbour and Nambucca shires when it came to their presentations at the State Government's Local Water Utilities Inquiry on Wednesday.

Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades said his council was just completing a joint project with the Clarence Valley shires to guarantee water for the next 25 to 30 years.

"We commenced this project for a sustainable water supply in 1993," he said.

"And we're just completing a 15 year programme of sewerage facility upgrades.

"We've done our job properly and don't need Big Brother interfering."

Nambucca Shire general manager, Mike Coulter, said his shire had investigated a common water scheme with Bellingen in the mid nineties but had rejected it on cost grounds.

"We look for alliances where-ever possible but with physical commodities like water, distance is the big issue," Mr Coulter said.

"To date it seems no economy would be gained by any joint projects."

He said 36 per cent of the council's expenditure was on water and sewerage.

"If this component were removed one third of the council's responsibilities would be removed."

Bellingen Shire's general manager Mike Colreavy said his shire had a self-contained catchment and no need for government injections into its water and sewerage operations.

"There were a lot of different models proposed at the inquiry," he said.

"Some models would decimate the viability of what is left of the council."

He said Bellingen Shire had already forged an alliance with Coffs Harbour to share expertise.

The inquiry has visited 17 regional centres around NSW gathering information about long-term options for sustainable water supplies state-wide.

Panel member Ian Armstrong MP said the message from local government had been consistent.

"They say they are the best manager's of their own water and sewerage," Mr Armstrong said.

"And income from these utilities is vital to their cash flows.

"Some have created voluntary alliances to share expertise but still retain their own assets."

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