October 4, 2013
“The biggest amount in the history of the South Burnett Regional Council”, “the biggest thing for the region since Tarong”, “simply fantastic” … this is how Mayor Wayne Kratzmann and Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington greeted this morning’s news that the State Government has allocated $10 million to make the upgrade of the Kingaroy Wastewater Treatment Plant a reality.
The cash injection will come from Round 2 of the State government’s “Royalties For Regions” program and was announced on site this morning by Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney.
South Burnett Regional Council has previously costed the upgrade at $26 million but Mayor Wayne Kratzmann said this morning that new estimates were being sought and he hoped the work could be completed for as little as $18 million.
“In a worst case scenario, another $16 million would have to be borrowed but we hope tenders will come in under that,” he said.
Mayor Kratzmann ruled out any chance of a “water levy” on ratepayers to pay for it.
Council has no choice but to upgrade the ageing infrastructure at the plant, some of which dates back to the 1940s.
There have been “compliance issues” with some of the blue-green algae alerts at Gordonbrook Dam possibly linked to the quality of the treated water entering the Stuart River.
The plant is also operating at capacity.
The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection notified council earlier this year that it could face fines of almost $1 million if the work was not carried out.
Mayor Kratzmann said the previous Kingaroy Shire Council had delayed upgrading the plant, under the impression that the 40 per cent subsidy from the State Government would always be there. However Council had been forced to “run up the white flag” when this had been removed by the Labor Government.
“We really didn’t know where to go,” he said.
Mr Seeney said coal had been mined from Meandu for 30 years and it was only right that royalties from that should flow back to the region.
“This is the first time that an identifiable amount of money has been returned to the region out of that,” he said.
Mr Seeney said Round 2 of the Royalties For Regions program would fund about $100 million worth of projects around Queensland, which meant the South Burnett allocation was one of the bigger amounts released.
He said the funding was a credit to Member for Nanango Deb Frecklington who had made the issue a priority.
South Burnett Water and Sewerage Manager Russell Hood said Expressions of Interest for contractors for the upgrade project would be issued shortly; some preliminary works could start soon but the main project probably would not get under way until mid-2014.
Mr Seeney said the fact action had now been taken on the problem should satisfy the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
Mrs Frecklington said approval of the funds was excellent news for the South Burnett community.
“I have been lobbying the Deputy Premier for many months about how vital this upgrade is to the region,” she said.
“Gaining almost half the cost from the Royalties for the Regions program is a great result.”
South Burnett Regional Council will now have to submit a detailed business case for the project to have the funding confirmed by the end of the year.
Mr Seeney said the State Government was proud of the Royalties for the Regions program which over four years to 2015-16 will invest $495 million in critical community infrastructure, roads and flood mitigation projects.