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Dam proposal a bit rich, says council

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council has rejected a proposal from the family company of Cr Jeremy Rich in the latest instalment in the dispute over the Walkerville Retarding Basin.
The dam was built in 1988 as part of the drainage scheme for the Promontory Views Estate to capture stormwater and treated septic effluent. Council bought land for the dam from the Rich family company, Ansevata Nominees, of which Cr Rich is a director. Under a historical agreement, Ansevata has access to water in the basin for stock and irrigation. The company owns the farm on which the dam was formerly located.
But Ansevata is concerned about the quality of the water for agricultural use and council’s water quality testing, and that continues to be the subject of long running legal dispute between Ansevata and council.
At last Wednesday’s council meeting, council heard Ansevata had asked council to buy land from Ansevata, build a new 50ML dam and wetlands, maintain the facility, provide all water to Ansevata in perpetuity at no cost, warrant and test the water, pay Ansevata $85,000 to cover legal costs and experts’ fees incurred so far, and have the dam and wetlands in place by April 1, 2019, to allow the dam to fill.
At 50ML, the dam is more than three times the size of the existing Walkerville Retarding Basin at 13.2ML. Council estimated the new dam would cost between $710,000 and $1,170,000, with ongoing maintenance at $26,000 to $36,000 per annum in perpetuity.
The costs are greater than the estimated cost of $188,448 to council for the Walkerville Retarding Basin 1990 Agreement for Taking of Water, which includes water testing for the remaining 52 years of the agreement. Council declined Ansevata’s proposal, citing it as not in the best interests of the community given the cost involved. Council invited Ansevata to put forward a proposal that would cost the same or less than the estimated $188,448 cost of the agreement. Council considered the matter last Wednesday.
Cr Alyson Skinner said, “It’s a fair bit to ask.” She said council was making a “genuine attempt” to find “a creative solution”.
Cr Andrew McEwen said, “council has been put in a position where we really need to resolve this as fast as possible”, estimating the dispute could cost council and Ansevata a combined $700-$800,000-plus, and more if the dispute went to the Supreme Court. He suggested council try to mediate conclusion.
Cr Don Hill said the situation was “awkward” given Cr Rich’s involvement and that he, Cr Hill, could not accept the request by Ansevata.
“Either we are going to be accused of handing money out to a fellow councillor or going to be accused of wasting ratepayers’ money in going to court,” he said.
Cr Hill said he would welcome a solution that excluded council from any future liabilities. Cr Ray Argento agreed, saying, “I hope that Ansevata will take this as a sign of good faith that we are trying to negotiate a way forward.”
Mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt said, “I think that we’ve had a fair ask here of a 50ML dam.”
Council’s response was carried unanimously. Cr Rich was absent from debate last Wednesday due to his conflict of interest.

Latest request: the family company of Cr Jeremy Rich wants South Gippsland Shire Council to buy land from them and build on it a new dam to service the water needs of the company’s Walkerville farm. Cr Rich is pictured during debate about another matter during council’s meeting last Wednesday. He was absent from debate about his family company’s request.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=25294

Posted by on Jul 3 2018. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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