A new timeline for the delivery of the much-anticipated Stuarts Point Sewerage Scheme has been delivered, with legal advice confirming that the approvals required for the project are far more complex than first anticipated.
This comes after price escalations have increased project costs to approximately $48 million, meaning it is classed as a state significant development for development consent purposes and therefore the Department of Planning and Environment become the consent authority.
The State Significant Development process now requires Council to:
- Prepare a scoping report that identifies what information needs to be included in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and what consultation must be undertaken
- Prepare an EIS in accordance with State Government guidelines
- Have the EIS reviewed by a Registered Environmental Assessment Practitioner
- Submit the EIS for assessment by the New South Wales Department of Planning and Environment (DPE)
- Place the EIS on public exhibition for a minimum of 28 days, with submissions being made to DPE who will publish all submissions as a report on the New South Wales Planning Portal
- Provide DPE with a response to the submissions report
- Await the assessment report from DPE followed by its determination
- Upon approval, seek the necessary additional approvals to commence construction
Kempsey Shire Council notified key resident advocacy groups in the area that the approval process is likely to result in a project of up to 18 months, with connection to properties not expected before 2025. This will be followed up with a notice delivered to every residence next week.
Kempsey Shire Council Mayor, Leo Hauville, wrote to the community in Stuarts Point, expressing Council’s frustration and disappointment, saying it is unacceptable for all the Shire community, and especially the people at Stuarts Point
“Due to State Government legislation that was poorly written in 2011, there will be a delay in delivering the project by 18 months.
“Council staff, your Councillors and I will continue to seek Government support for amending the legislation. We will also seek support from all candidates at the next state election in March,” Mr Hauville said.
Kempsey Shire Council General Manager, Craig Milburn, said Council had hoped to deliver the project sooner but could not find an agreement with the State Government.
“Delivery of the Stuarts Point Sewerage Scheme is regrettably not expected until 2025 at the earliest.
“This unavoidable delay of up to 18 months, is required despite Council advocating for quicker alternatives, as the project must seek consent under the New South Wales Government’s complex approval pathway,” Mr Milburn said.
“Council have sought multiple legal opinions and advocated with the state local member and the relevant Minister but there are no alternatives to this legislated planning pathway at this stage.
“We know that this will frustrate members of the community who have been waiting for this project for years, but at least now we have a way forward.”
Council had previously anticipated that construction tenders could be called for in this financial year, however the approval pathway that has now been established requires significant environmental reporting including preparation and public exhibition of an Environmental Impact Statement.
Kempsey Shire Council Group Manager Water and Sewer, Wes Trotter, assured residents that the groundwater issues seen in the area during recent floods was not a factor.
“Rising groundwater levels such as those experienced in the last two years have impacts on onsite sewer systems, but these systems aren’t the cause of the rising water,” Mr Trotter said.
“The groundwater issues will continue to be monitored and managed separately to the new sewer scheme project.
“Council has had tremendous success with our emergency pumping actions. Houses were saved this year and we are well placed to do so again should we see further rising groundwater levels.”
Planning and constructing the Stuarts Point Sewerage Scheme is a highly complex project impacted by State Government environmental and planning legislation, and Council will continue to provide updates on progress.