Central Coast and Tillegra
23/12/2008 9:18:00 AM
IT is beyond doubt that water supply authorities on the Central Coast wanted Tillegra Dam to be built.
The coast's WaterPlan 2050, its blueprint for long-term water security, lists the dam as the first among a range of options to drought-proof the region.
By unexpectedly announcing the dam in November 2006, when the coast's drought was dire and reserves were under 15 per cent, the NSW Government was giving the Central Coast what it wanted and playing good politics in the lead-up to an election.
For some months the Hunter had been piping large amounts of water to the coast but there were limits to what it could supply. Tillegra, previously considered a future option if Hunter water demand grew vigorously, promised to remove those limits, drought-proofing both regions for many, many decades.
Now, however, the Central Coast has changed its mind.
Gosford Mayor Chris Holstein has conceded that Tillegra was the coast's preferred option, but this changed in May 2007 when the Federal Government also in election mode unexpectedly promised $80 million to build a pipeline from the Wyong River to the Central Coast's Mangrove Creek Dam.
The pipeline made Tillegra redundant from the coast's point of view, especially since coast users would have been paying top dollar for Tillegra water.
Having trumpeted the Central Coast benefits when it announced the dam, the State Government is now shrugging off the Central Coast's change of heart, promising the marginal seat voters that they won't have to pay a penny towards Tillegra.
Not only that, the Government's decision to exempt property developers from contributing to the dam's cost through levies means Hunter Water's budget for the project is up in the air.
The only option left to finance Tillegra is to crank up the water bills of existing Hunter Water customers who are already facing a massive increase in bills over the next four years.
This hardly seems fair. At the time the dam was announced it was clear that the Central Coast was intended to be a beneficiary. If the coast hadn't been in drought it is debatable whether the announcement would have occurred.
The Government helped make this mess and it should not leave Hunter residents to clean up on their own.
So when is the State Government and Hunter Water going to call off this expensive farce? Lower Hunter residents have been milked ever since the user pays system came in (though there's nothing wrong with the user pays system just where the money ends up) and look like being hit again. I'm just glad I'm not in Hunter Water's juristiction, that and I'm soon to move somewhere with around 50 000 litres of water storage (and only needing 100-150mm of rain to fill them).
As has been pointed out it would be cheaper to install rainwater tanks at every house in Hunter Water's area.