June 2, 2021
Murgon will live with its ageing wastewater treatment plant for another decade – and Kingaroy with its current water supply system – so the South Burnett Regional Council can borrow $11.8 million to help prevent a 1-in-10,000 year event.
At Wednesday’s Budget planning meeting, Councillors voted to borrow $11.8 million over three financial years to upgrade the spillway on Gordonbrook Dam.
The Council will borrow $800,000 in 2022-23, a further $5 million in 2023-24 and a final $6 million in 2024-25.
The spillway upgrade has been ordered by Queensland’s Dam Safety Regulator, which has made similar demands on all Queensland councils that operate water storages.
The upgrade aims to improve Gordonbrook’s acceptable flood capacity, reducing the risk downstream properties might face if the dam overflowed.
The Council is obliged to have 65 per cent of the upgrades completed by 2025, with the balance completed by 2035.
In early May neighbouring Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) announced it will face a bill of between $138 million and $182 million to carry out similar upgrades at Cressbrook and Cooby dams, two of Toowoomba’s three water storages.
TRC warned the costs of the spillway upgrades were so excessive they could negatively affect the Council’s 10-year capital works program and damage its credit rating with Queensland Treasury.
On Wednesday, South Burnett councillors voted to pursue a three-year borrowing program to cover the spillway’s upgrade costs.
To accommodate this, Councillors decided to defer the replacement of Murgon’s existing wastewater treatment plant to 2032, and put a similar deferral on planned upgrades to Kingaroy’s water trunk infrastructure.
Mayor Brett Otto told southburnett.com.au he had received advice from Council officers that Murgon’s wastewater facilities should have another 10 years of working life.
Kingaroy’s trunk infrastructure upgrades can also be postponed providing the town does not grow too quickly over the coming decade.
At present, the SBRC has about $30 million in long-term borrowings and a further $3 million in short-term borrowings on its books.
This $33 million debt – most of it borrowed from Queensland Treasury at a minimal interest rate – is around half the $62 million debt the Council inherited when it was formed from the 2008 amalgamations, and is being repaid at about $3 million a year.
Because of this, the planned three-year borrowing program will not introduce any significant amount of new debt.
Mayor Otto stressed he intends to continue to seek State and Federal funding for water-related projects in the region.