July 7, 2021
South Burnett mayor Brett Otto has warned councillors he is likely to oppose a plan to borrow $12 million to fix Gordonbrook Dam’s spillway.
The plan is outlined in the draft of Council’s 2021-22 Budget, which is due to be handed down at the annual Budget Meeting next Wednesday (July 14).
Council was advised in May by Queensland’s Dam Safety Regulator that it was required to upgrade Gordonbrook Dam’s spillway.
The upgrade would guard against a 1-in-10,000 year flooding event, improving public safety.
In June, Council announced it would need to borrow almost $12 million to pay for the works.
However – with $33.5 million in debt already on the books – this would mean upgrades to Murgon’s water treatment plant and Kingaroy’s water supply system would have to wait until 2030.
At Wednesday’s Infrastructure standing committee meeting, Mayor Otto said he now thought it would be wiser for Council to join an alliance of Queensland councils who will be pressing the State and Federal governments for funding support to cover the spillway upgrades.
The alliance is being led by Toowoomba Regional Council, which is facing a $203 million bill to upgrade the spillways of its Cooby and Cressbrook dams.
When Toowoomba Regional Council handed down its 2021-22 Budget on June 17, it did not set aside any reserves or propose to take out any borrowings for its spillway projects.
Instead, Mayor Paul Antonio said he would be seeking State and Federal assistance to fund the work.
Mayor Otto told Wednesday’s meeting he thinks the South Burnett should do the same.
He said that even if Council secured a low interest rate of between 1.6-2.0 per cent from Queensland Treasury Corporation, it would still take almost 20 years to repay the debt and cost ratepayers more than $3 million in interest.
“In my view, it would be unconscionable to burden future generations with that debt,” Mayor Otto said.
He said the spillway upgrade would not yield “one extra drop of water” for the region and the extremely unlikely flooding event – if it ever occurred – would have very little effect on anyone living downstream of the dam.
Instead, he proposed the South Burnett join with other mayors and councils facing the same problem to petition the State and Federal Governments to pay for the upgrades.
“I think it’s unfair, frankly, to burden our community with something we have no control over,” he said.
Mayor Otto later told southburnett.com.au he would like to see a proposed spillway borrowing program removed from the Budget’s forward projections.
The papers project no new borrowings at all in the coming year, but tranches of borrowings in the three succeeding financial years to fund the spillway work.
The Mayor said Toowoomba had not done this in its own 2021-22 Budget, and he believed the South Burnett would be wise to follow the same path.