Who will pay up to try progress a dam on this site?
Who will pay up to try progress a dam on this site? File

Council tells parties to pay up for dam rights

INTERESTED dam proponents have been told to pay up if they wish to progress with a project.

Southern Downs Regional Council is eager to dispose of Emu Swamp Dam approvals, but they'll come at a premium price.

After recently gaining a six month extension on environmental approvals, council has placed them on the market for tender.

Council wants a cost recovery of $1,501,980 for the transfer of the approvals.

Despite the Local Government Regulation 2012 stipulating that council didn't need to undertake a refined tender process, it has opted down that route.

"The expenditure listed in the tender reflects the amount of funds council has spent to obtain the approvals for the Emu Swamp Dam project on behalf of all the ratepayers in the Southern Downs region,” a council spokesperson said.

"The statement that council could hand the approvals to someone else that council chooses for a cost of $1 is not correct. Council has a responsibility to ensure that the ratepayers receive a return on any investment.

"Noting the expenses council has incurred as part of the approval process in the tender is a way for council to recoup these funds on behalf of the ratepayers and provide an indicative value of the approvals,” the spokesperson said.

Council said it wouldn't be best practice if they didn't ensure whoever sought to take over the approvals had the ability to exercise them.

"In awarding a tender, council, the State Government and the Federal Government need to undertake a due diligence process to ensure that the organisation that acquires the approvals has the capacity and/or experience to deliver the project, as per the approvals.

"The Stanthorpe Chamber of Commerce requested council place the approvals on the market as soon as possible. Council envisages that other parties may express interest in procuring the approvals and it would be inappropriate for council to base the tender process on the time constraints of one potential tenderer.”

The chamber had sought to see the approvals be made available as soon as possible, a request made in May of this year.

Since then, the chamber has set up an entity capable of taking on the project. The chamber's proponent is Emu Swamp Dam Pty Ltd, a company that has been set up and is now operational.

Despite the cost tag attached to the approvals, chamber president Bill James said they would proceed with applying.

"The chamber of commerce acknowledges the council's decision and will be submitting a tender on behalf of the Stanthorpe and Granite Belt community.”

However, the decision to place such a hefty price tag hasn't gone down well.

"Our group has contributed a significant amount for the EIS for the pipeline and believes it is immoral that council is trying to sell something that the community has already contributed to,” Stanthorpe Community Reference Panel treasurer, Steve Tremellen said.

The tender closing date is set down for Tuesday, November 20, prior to the completion of the chamber's detailed business case which it is working on.

Council said it would continue to investigate other future water supply options once the approvals had been transferred.

"In regards to securing future urban water supply for Stanthorpe, council will continue to follow the recommendations of the GHD Report, subject to budget constraints.

"Council will also follow the recommendations of the Stanthorpe Water Supply Security Assessment Study jointly prepared by the State Government and Southern Downs Regional Council.”