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27 January, 2021

$84.2 million needed for MSC water upgrade

MAREEBA Shire Council (MSC) is set to increase water access charges as they prepare to replace and upgrade their current crumbling water infrastructure.

By Rhys Thomas

Mareeba Shire Council Mayor Angela Toppin at the Mareeba Water Treatment Plant that is set to get upgraded as a part of their upcoming water infrastructure repairs.

MAREEBA Shire Council (MSC) is set to increase water access charges as they prepare to replace and upgrade their current crumbling water infrastructure. 

At last week’s ordinary January Council meeting, the decision was passed unanimously to start replacing and upgrading the critical infrastructure in stages. 

The current underground water infrastructure used by MSC was put in place 60 years ago between the 1950’s and the 1970’s and is entering the end of its lifespan. 

Pipes, water reservoirs, pumps and treatment plant components are just some of the assets that have been identified as needing to be replaced and/or upgraded. 

To fund the 256km, $84.2 million infrastructure replacement an increase of $250 to $450 will be added onto the water access charge to ratepayers who use the Council water infrastructure system. 

During the meeting MSC Deputy Mayor Kevin Davies said that the increase is something that Council needs to do. 

“People don’t see what’s under the ground, they just turn on their tap and water comes out and if it doesn’t come out they complain,” - MSC Deputy Mayor Kevin Davies 

“This is something that we’re looking into the future with, it’s not just the next year it’s the next five, 10 up to 20 years.

“This is something that we have to do as it’s a critical piece of infrastructure.”

Council is seeking grants from both state and federal governments to help offset the costs of the upgrades and alleviate the cost on ratepayers.

In the MSC agenda for the January 20 meeting, it states that the lower increase of $250 will cover the expenses until mid 2030, excluding the Water Treatment Plant. The $450 increase however will fund the entire project over the next 14 years. 

Council will decide on the amount of the increase before the end of the financial year for it to take effect in the 2021 financial year.

After the meeting Mayor Angela Toppin said that Council will be looking at securing the funding for these upgrades as soon as possible to let works start. 

“For the next 10 years we will have to address this critical infrastructure for our Shire and we have to have the funds to do it,” - MSC Mayor Angela Toppin

“The moment you press the button and no water comes out there is a big alarm. 

“Over a $100M investment in water infrastructure is projected over the next 10 to 15 years to ensure a safe and reliable water sup- ply over the long term.” 

The money gathered from the water access charge goes into the water reserve and it is then spent purely on water infrastructure works. 

Council will have a $7.4 million surplus in the water reserve by the end of the next financial year with the increase to the water access charge. 

By 2026/27 if there is no increase Council would be in a deficit of $5.4 million and by 2034/35 the deficit would grow to over $53 million. 

The new water infrastructure system has an estimated 80-year lifespan with work set to begin in stages in the 2021 financial year.

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