Yass water quality a top shelf promise for Eden-Monaro and Goulburn candidates

Candidate for Goulburn, Dr Ursula Stephens and member for Eden-Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly announce Labor's funding commitment to fix the Yass water, with Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey. Photo: Hannah Sparks
Candidate for Goulburn, Dr Ursula Stephens and member for Eden-Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly announce Labor's funding commitment to fix the Yass water, with Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey. Photo: Hannah Sparks

Federal and state-level Labor have promised $5 million each to fix the Yass water treatment plant, if elected this year.

The money would go towards a reverse osmosis treatment plant, which would better filter the town water at a build cost of $11m, Yass Valley Council estimates.

The town has pushed for an improvement to water quality, having tolerated discolouration and a pungent smell and flavour for weeks during the hot and dry weather.

Labor’s commitment was made on Thursday February 7 by the member for Eden-Monaro, Dr Mike Kelly, and candidate for Goulburn, Dr Ursula Stephens.

The funding has been promised by the Labor government even if neither candidate is elected.

The promised $5m would still be provided by a federal Labor government even if a state Labor government wasn’t elected, and vice versa.

Dr Kelly and Dr Stephens said the funding would be allocated by Labor in the 2019-20 budget.

They said the money would then be released once the council completed a business case for the new treatment plant and works were put out to tender.

The council is already creating a business case using the $1.2m it received in December 2018 from the NSW Government’s Housing Acceleration Fund.

Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey said the business case should be completed in six to eight months.

Factoring in the time for a business case and tender, a council spokesperson said Yass was looking at a new water treatment plant sometime between 2020-21.

Retiring Goulburn MP Pru Goward also announced today that once the council’s business case was completed, funding would be provided to the treatment plant from the NSW Liberals and Nationals’ $1 billion Safe and Secure Water infrastructure program.

This would be conditional on a NSW Liberals and Nationals government being re-elected.

“The community, media and council have push hard on this and we’ve actually made parties of all persuasions make a commitment, so I’m confident it will be delivered regardless of who is elected,” Dr Stephens said.

Yass Valley Council has tried to secure funds before now, applying for four grants between 2016 and 2018.

Of those, only two were successful, including the $1.2m for the business case and $3.735m from the Restart NSW/Regional Water and Wastewater Backlog Program in April 2016.

As the latter amount did not reach the council’s target, it was redirected to the Yass to Murrumbateman water pipeline to address water security for the village.

When asked why Yass’ water quality had become a partisan issue and why Labor hadn’t put pressure on the opposition to fix this sooner, Dr Kelly said the party had been looking at the issue but was waiting to see the outcome of the council’s funding applications.

Cr Abbey said the push from the community had helped put the town’s poor water quality on the state and federal governments’ agendas.

“It has been a long-term problem for the Yass Valley. We want to see it fixed as quickly as possible,” Cr Abbey said.

When asked by the Tribune whether residents would receive rebates for retail-bought water, Cr Abbey said the council had not discussed that possibility.