Thursday, May 30, 2024

Cairns reaffirms water security as region’s top priority

Cairns Regional Council says water security remains its top advocacy priority.

The Council says additional funding commitments for the region’s planned Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 project (CWSS1) will be sought from the State and Federal Governments.

The $472 million project is critical to the city’s future and will avoid a potential drinking water shortage by 2026, it says.

At today’s meeting Ordinary Meeting, Council unanimously reconfirmed Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 as its number one advocacy priority, a position previously endorsed on 28 April 2021 and again 21 December 2023.

Mayor, Amy Eden, today repeated calls for Federal and State Governments to increase their commitments to $236 million each and fully fund the project.

“A commitment to fully fund this critical project would deliver Cairns ratepayers a cost of living relief package of $488 per household, per year over the next 15 years,” said Mayor Eden.

The State and Federal Governments have each previously pledged $107.5 million to the project.

Mayor Eden said additional funding commitments would alleviate the burden on ratepayers and residents, who were already experiencing significant cost-of-living pressures, including rising cost of mortgage repayments, rent, insurance and day-to-day essentials.

“Council is also facing the prospect of a multi-million repair bill from the damage caused by unprecedented flooding associated with ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper,” she said.

“While the disaster recovery support packages provided by the State and Federal governments are welcome and have provided significant support, our community will inevitably still bear significant costs as we look to rebuild infrastructure, address the environmental impacts of the event, and implement initiatives to support economic and social recovery.

“Without additional funding, it will be our community that bears the cost of this critical infrastructure project through increased rates and/or charges, at a time they can least afford it.

“We know that all our local Federal and State members support the project, as do key stakeholders from across the region, who all recognise the importance of this infrastructure in safeguarding the future prosperity of our city.

“During my campaign, I pledged that within my first 100 days of office Council would prepare and present Cairns’ State election priorities to major political parties – today’s endorsed position goes to the heart of that pledge.”

The CWSS1 will also provide greater disaster resilience, mitigating the risks of blocked intakes at the city’s primary water source, the Mayor said.

“The events of last December exposed the vulnerability of our current water supply, when intakes at Copperlode Dam were blocked by debris.”

“Residents were placed on extreme water restrictions for 20 days, and our city’s treated water reserves falling to just 3% – the city came within two hours of running out of water.

“A new water supply and establishment of another treatment plant to the south of the city will provide the city with a much-needed secondary water supply, while increasing network resilience to respond to natural disasters.”

Cairns’ primary water source is Copperlode Falls Dam, which was constructed in 1976 when the city’s population was 58,000.

While it has served the city well, Council says it can no longer meet the water needs of a growing population, expected to reach 241,000 by 2050.

The CWSS1 project has been confirmed, through a detailed independent business case, as the best value for money solution to Cairns’ water needs.

CWSS1 will supplement the city’s current water supply from Copperlode Dam Falls, by sourcing new water from the Mulgrave River at Gordonvale, which along with the existing Behana Creek supply, will be processed at a new water treatment plant before being delivered into the existing water reticulation network.

At an Ordinary Meeting on 21 December 2023, Council endorsed the Project Launch Approval for Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 Project Construction Works and also awarded the design and construct contract to John Holland Queensland Pty Ltd.

The Cairns Water Security Stage 1 project will break ground in mid-2024.

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