Debate rages over Council water rights

NAMBUCCA Shire Council will highlight its good track record in water and sewerage services in its response to the NSW Government's recently released independent inquiry into the future provision of these services state-wide.

On Thursday, councillors debated in detail the report's suggestion that Nambucca join Kempsey and Port Macquarie/Hastings Shires in a council-owned regional water corporation.

Cr Brian Finlayson said he rejected any association with shires to the south.

“Our associations lie to the north,” Cr Finlayson said.

“We would be better served if we stuck with Bellingen and Coffs Harbour.”

He said the council was being naive if it believed providing cheap water was something the State government would view favourably.

“The Government wants mega-councils that make money.”

Cr Janet Court said the council needed to investigate all possible options to show it was actively engaged in the process of finding a suitable alternative.

The mayor, Rhonda Hoban, said following recent talks with ministers, she had been left in no doubt that the State government wanted to pass on the responsibility for funding water and sewerage infrastructure. “This is another form of cost-shifting,” Cr Hoban said.

“We have to show why this will not be good for our ratepayers.

“Responding is difficult because we are in no-man's land as far as any model is concerned - we have no idea what the proposed corporation would look like.”

She said it was to the council's advantage that the report said any new regional water corporation had to ensure the ongoing viability of each general purpose council. “We all know that would not be the case for us.”

The council voted to first approach Kempsey and Port/Hastings Councils to ascertain their willingness to establish a joint water/sewerage scheme.

If the answer is positive, then independent experts should take investigations further. The council intends asking the State Government to fully fund the cost of any investigations.

Inquiries with northern neighbours will also be made to ascertain interest in Nambucca Shire being included within a Coffs Coast Water Alliance or “any other form of voluntary alliance”.

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