Community Environment Network Chair, John Asquith, has called on the newly re-elected Coalition State Government to “strategically rethink” funding for waterways maintenance on the Central Coast.
“I am concerned with the ongoing issues around wrack in the lakes and dredging of channels in Tuggerah Lakes and Brisbane Water,” Asquith said.
“An alternative arrangement for implementing Central Coast Council’s Estuary Management Plan (EMP) is needed.
“The current system is expensive, slow and does not deliver or make the NSW Government accountable.”
Asquith said the EMP had been prepared according to NSW guidelines and has been approved by the State Government.
“The State Government sets the rules and collects all the revenue from boat and fishing licences and the Council has to dredge in line with State Government guidelines, with Waterways NSW taking no responsibility for keeping the channels open,” he said.
“On top of all this, the State Government charges council a waste levy to dispose of the wrack of around $430,000 per annum.
“To obtain funds from the government to help with dredging or wrack removal, Council needs to apply for a grant and usually contribute 50%.
“This involves considerable expenditure of staff resources before getting any money and then the Council has to jump through a range of hoops with government agencies.
“The required actions are known and identified and a cost estimated, so why can’t the State Government fund the EMP on a three-year cycle?
“That way Council would know what money is available, what work is needed and when it needs to be done.”
Asquith said it was “a bit rich” of the government to expect Council to contribute 50% of dredging costs, given it charges Council “staggering” waste fees for the wrack.
“Council is ending up having no control (or levers) but cops all the blame from residents and the government,” he said.
“People are not satisfied and we need a better answer.
“The current arrangement is a ridiculous process where the government gets the money, owns the asset, makes the rules and blames the Council.”
Media release, Feb 17
John Asquith, Community Environment Network