$140 million water upgrade needed
WHITSUNDAY Regional Council has called for tenders to start work on essential upgrades to water and wastewater infrastructure in Cannonvale, Proserpine and Bowen this week but is banking on State and Federal Governments to front up with at least 40 per cent of the bill.
The total cost of the upgrades at Cannonvale, Proserpine and Bowen is expected to be $140 million and Council is relying on confirmation of a subsidy before work can start so that ratepayers don't have to foot the bill.
Whitsunday Regional Council has been in negotiations with State and Federal Governments asking for up to 50 per cent of the total to be subsidised.
Mayor Mike Brunker said ratepayers could be forced to cover more than half of the cost if council wasn't successful in gaining the funding.
The upgrades would see construction of two new waste water treatment plants at the existing Cannonvale and Proserpine sites and a new plant and site for Bowen.
The Cannonvale upgrade is first on the list.
Council’s director of transport and infrastructure Gary Martin said the Cannonvale plant was overloaded and "feeling the strain".
Mr Brunker agreed.
Yesterday, the announcement was made that Council would be calling for contract tenders next week, despite the funding not yet being secured.
Mr Brunker dismissed the idea that Council was putting the cart before the horse saying the upgrades were essential and "had to be done".
"I’m not working on the fact we are not going to get subsidies," he said.
"All the planning and tendering can be done while we are waiting.
"We have to do this. It is our basic bread and butter."
He said the Whitsundays would struggle to move forward and develop "if you can’t flush the toilet".
"If we don’t get the subsidy, we are talking hundreds of per cent in rate increases," he said.
But Mr Brunker said that if the State and Federal Governments pulled through with the subsidies, ratepayers could expect an increase which would match that of neighbouring shire averages like Mackay and Townsville.
Whitsunday Coast Ratepayers Association secretary Tony Moscato said ratepayers could not cope with any more rate increases.
"I think the number of people finding it difficult to pay their rates now is more than ever," he said.
"It shouldn’t be up to the ratepayers to fork out the money."