Statement from Nick Dametto MP – Budget and Port Hinchinbrook STP matters

27 June 2024

I am aware that at yesterday’s special council meeting, the Cassowary Coast Regional Council (the Council) adopted their 2024-25 budget.

Understandably, Port Hinchinbrook residents were shocked to learn that the sewage charges for the Port Hinchinbrook scheme are unfathomably high in comparison to other locations as can be seen below:

I am advised by Council that the reason for the substantial cost, that will be passed on to only those Port Hinchinbrook ratepayers who directly benefit, is the $7 million funding shortfall for the construction of the new sewage treatment plant (STP). The shortfall has arisen in circumstances where construction costs and global material prices have risen exponentially and was an unforeseeable cost increase at the time of initial project planning.

I am further advised by Council that the Port Hinchinbrook STP is approximately 70% constructed with an anticipated completion date of November 2024. Council intends to satisfy the shortfall amount of $7 million with financial borrowings. As can be seen from the Council budget, repayment of the borrowings will be passed on to those residents and ratepayers who will directly benefit from the new STP. This will amount to residential ratepayers incurring an additional $1,902 per year in their rates for sewerage. Please note, for a residential property, there is only one charge per property, and no additional charges per pedestal.

The ‘additional pedestal’ charge is applicable to non-residential properties.

Clearly this dramatic increase to the current sewage levy will be unaffordable by many and is also above and beyond the rates charged for sewage under the Innisfail and Tully and Mission Beach schemes.

It has been known for some time that there was to be an expected shortfall of funding for the STP and I have spent the last 12 months lobbying the Premier and the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning and Minister for Public Works, for funding assistance to reduce the margin of the shortfall. I understand the Council have also lobbied for additional funding avenues that could potentially be available and are still awaiting a response from the Minister in that regard.

More recently, through meetings as well as written correspondence, the Premier expressed his support for the normalisation of Port Hinchinbrook. The Premier highlighted that any additional funding would fall under the portfolio of Minister Scanlon and referred the matter on to her office.

Today I have sent correspondence to Minister Scanlon, making reference to the Premier’s advice and previous representations made by Council, seeking an urgent update from her in relation to funding availability.

In closing, I am deeply concerned about a select portion of ratepayers at Port Hinchinbrook being encumbered by this sewage charge. All available options must be explored and fully exhausted in order to minimise this financial burden and I am committed to doing so in conjunction with the Council and Minister Scanlon and her departments.

Once available, an update will be provided on this very urgent matter.

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Nick Dametto MP