Nearby town up in arms over planned sewerage system

Residents in the rural village of Gundaroo north of Canberra are up in arms over a proposal that could see their sewerage centralised in preparation for future development in the area.

A Yass Valley Council survey found 75 per cent of residents opposed the plan, with many already having spent thousands of dollars on their own management system.

The council is currently considering three developer proposals in the area that will ultimately double the population. As a result, it is looking to centralise sewage treatment to accommodate the proposals.

Residents in the rural village of Gundaroo north of Canberra are up in arms over a proposal that could see their sewerage centralised in preparation for future development in the area. Photo: Karleen Minney

Located about 40 kilometres north of Canberra’s centre, Gundaroo currently does not have a centralised sewerage system.

Water supply is sourced from bore water and rainwater tanks. Onsite treatment systems manage sewage and treated effluent – these systems require residents to operate and maintain them.

President of the Gundaroo Community Association Moraig McKenna said village residents had been told that if the result of the council survey was negative then there would be no sewerage plant for the area.

About 200 surveys were issued to residents, with 120 returned, and 75 per cent against the plans.

“We are disappointed that the council has chosen to go forward with a sewage treatment plant for Gundaroo against the advice of its director of engineering and the majority of the community as determined by a the Yass Valley Council’s own survey of village residents,” Ms McKenna said.

Many residents have already spent thousands on their own management system. From left to right, Gundaroo residents Ian Jones and Abram Hays. Photo: Karleen Minney

“We are not against growth. We have always stated that we think that Gundaroo should grow over time through the infill of existing blocks within the village boundaries.”

But director of planning for Yass Valley Council Chris Berry said the scheme had not yet been approved because “there is still some further investigation and consultation to be undertaken”.

“The final design of the scheme has not yet been completed to enable an approval for the works to be issued,” Mr Berry said.

“While council resolved to undertake further investigations, to finalise the design, it also determined to apply for a 50 per cent subsidy under a state government funding program for the Gundaroo scheme.”

He said the public works department looked into several options for the collection and treatment of wastewater and sewage from existing and proposed development in Gundaroo.

“The preferred option in the report was a gravity collection system and a centralised sewage treatment of oxidation ponds with evaporation or pasture irrigation,” Mr Berry said.

“Essentially each property connects to a reticulated sewer main which transfers wastewater and sewage by gravity to a sewage treatment plant. The treated output from the plant is discharged to the Yass River or used to irrigate pasture.”

Gundaroo local Abram Hays said residents had a number of concerns, primarily the council ignoring residents.

“The councillors seem to have decided that they would ignore both their own staff and the views of Gundaroo residents which they sort as part of a consolation process,” Mr Hays said.

“What we face is a situation where we as residents are going to have to pay for sewerage that will increase the profits of development conducted either side of this village.”

He said many residents had already put in “expensive, environmentally responsible septic systems”, spending thousands of dollars.

“We put the best systems in to ensure that we have responsible environmental outcomes,” he said.

“Often when we use water, we recycle that water and use it on our gardens, we lose all of that, we lose that investment, we lose the ability to use that water and this town doesn’t have reticulated water.”

Mr Berry said the council was particularly concerned about the cost to local residents and had directed staff to investigate options to alleviate the impact of high connection costs.

“If the subsidy is not successful then this investigation would need to examine these implications also.”

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