Sewerage system not favourable

BELLINGEN Council has voted to go ahead with a one-size-fits-all low-pressure sewerage system on the remaining 42 Newry Island properties.

The vote was not well received by the 20 residents in the gallery, including two who spoke, or the councillors voting.

As the island’s sewage was listed as one of the possible sources of norovirus which closed the Kalang River to oyster harvesting in 2009, the NSW Food Authority requires remediation work before it will allow the river to be re-opened.

The cost of the sewer connection for each property has been estimated at $9200, probably more once the costs of decommissioning current on-site sewerage management systems and garden rehabilitation are included, not to mention individual plumbing and electrical works to connect the pumps.

While most residents are not against efforts to fix the river’s health problems, many have said they simply don’t have the money and will be forced to take out loans.

For resident Fran Hill, the result was devastating.

“We have a good, working on-site system – upgrading would be much cheaper for us but we are being treated like everyone else and forced into a situation we cannot afford,” Mrs Hill said.

“To assume that everyone is wealthy on Newry Island is a bad premise.”

Addressing the council yesterday, resident Cherryl Fatouros asked councillors to consider the possibility of capping the fee at $9200, offering interest-free loans to those who need them, and the cost-savings of neighbours sharing sewer pipes.

All three initiatives were discussed but vetoed by councillors and council staff.

Cr Ian Coe said the sharing of services between neighbours was fraught with difficulties, while director of corporate services, Peter Wilson, said interest-free loans were not feasible from a financial point of view and fee capping was deemed problematic as the quoted costs were still estimates.

However, some small gains in the residents’ favour were made.

Councillors voted to waive the one-off sewer contribution fee of $2375 for all property owners rather than just those who were able to pay the $9200 up front.

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