Funding divide for river projects ‘disproportional’
THE Somerset Regional Council has renewed its commitment to a massive multi-council initiative, but questions have been raised over how much money each council is contributing to the program.
The Resilient Rivers Initiative is a partnership arrangement between South East Queensland councils and key agencies such as the State Government, water utilities, and catchment organisations, devoted to improving the quality and conditions of natural waterways.
The councils involved provide an annual monetary contribution, and in-kind assistance where they can, to support restoration and renewal projects at sites throughout the state.
In a letter to the SRC, Council of Mayors – South East Queensland CEO Scott Smith outlined one of the key points of the program.
“Importantly, councils that have contributed to the Catchment Investment Program understand their funds may not be spent directly in their Local Government Area,” he said.
“Instead, the return on their investment comes from the completion of priority projects upstream where they can deliver a more strategic and beneficial outcome.”
Somerset councillor Robert Whalley raised his concerns that the amount being contributed by the Somerset council – averaging $26,000 per year – was too much, as other larger councils such as Brisbane City and Redlands were benefiting more from the program.
“The amount of money being put in isn’t proportional to who benefits the most, and who can afford to pay,” he said.
“Compare what each council raises in environmental levy to what they put into this initiative. It’s fundamentally incorrect. The funding arrangement doesn’t work too well, and I believe it should be looked at.”
His comments raised some confusion from other councillors, who said they didn’t realise there was a disparity between how much other councils were contributing to the program.
Deputy Mayor Helen Brieschke requested an official report be put together detailing a full breakdown of how much each council was contributing to the program, compared to how much was raised through environmental levies.
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Several projects are currently funded under the Resilient Rivers Initiative.
This includes the rehabilitation of Black Snake Creek, a $159,761 project with in-kind support from the Somerset Regional Council.
The council has also contributed $40,000 to a $130,000 project to investigate erosion control measures and recreation design concepts at Hills and Savages Crossing, and $15,000 to an $80,000 Upper Brisbane and Stanley Catchment Action Plan.
Cr Sean Choat praised the accomplishments and future plans of the program.
“This is another example of council doing our fair share,” he said.
“This and our biosecurity plan will benefit people throughout our region.”
More stories by Nathan Greaves.