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  • Richard

Watsan Queensland

Missing one of the training days I went down south a way to the Gold Coast which, amongst other things I am sure, has been known to have had one of the major privatisations

in Australia in the early 2000’s ….. Take away for me was the wealth apparent in the picture of this satellite area to Brisbane, as well as the tourist influenced services, and therefore the greater likelihood of acceptance of water being delivered by the private sector?

Finding online about “The Gold Coast initiative and doubling its capacity to 125 mega litres a day. Opened in February 2009, at a cost of $1.2 billion, the plant, abutting the Coolangatta Airport, encountered rusting problems and temporarily closed in December 2010, not just because of rust, but because heavy rains in late 2008 and the early months of 2009 saw the region’s dams at 73 per cent of capacity. The state government has recently taken the Hinze Dam off the Gold Coast City Council and given it to a statutory authority, SEQ Water. Nobody needed expensive desalinated water, requiring vast amounts of coal-powered electricity for every stage of the production process. Meanwhile the Hinze Dam, named after the pioneering grandparents of a local government Minister, had its dam wall raised for the third time in 2011. With a modest storage capacity of 310 mega litres, the dam, with a 207 square kilometre catchment, also provides flood migration for the Nerang River. As rainfall in the parts of the catchment is often over two metres per annum this dam will only run dry in an exceptional drought.”

Again quoting extensively from Frost et al in Water, history and the Australian city: “As the city expanded outward along its over-stretched road system, it also faced an increasingly embarrassing shortage of sewered blocks of land, even though reticulated water kept up with the new subdivisions. Eighty percent of Brisbane was unsewered in 1961, so night carts remained in some areas, although most newer subdivisions had septic tanks, which were also retro-fitted on many older houses. No other capital city had such an extraordinary sewerage backlog”

“When Clem Jones stood for Brisbane Mayor in 1961…he had become, by the mid-1950s, Brisbane’s largest subdivider. He promised that the City Council would retain its electricity undertaking, rather than privatise it, in the grand government ownership tradition of Premier Ryan four decades previously. Jones got 51 per cent of the vote and went on to become Brisbane’s longest serving lord mayor. He persuaded both the Council and the State government to agree to charge developers 250 pounds per allotment for sewage installation. Even the state government’s Queensland Housing Commission had to cough up for their new estate. By 1967 60 per cent of Brisbane had been sewered, an extraordinary achievement, partly explained by the spread of huge new subdivisions, sewered from the very start. Sewerage gangs could be seen throughout the middle and outer suburbs, some of them former night cart collectors.

Most of the work was paid for with loan monies, plus the developer contributions and some assistance from the state government. Much of the effluent, especially from the bayside suburbs, was discharged into the ocean, until the construction of a sewerage and waste water treatment works at Luggage Point in 1973-74. As Jones had been so successful in sewering Brisbane, the city didn’t require the assistance of the Whitlam federal Labor government (1972- 75) for connections houses to the sewer (unlike Sydney and Melbourne, major beneficiaries of that) but the City did get substantial federal funding for the Luggage Point facility.”

Elsewhere quoting: “In 1973 Gough Whitlam’s Commonwealth Government had introduced a scheme to fund the comprehensive sewerage of Australian cities and towns. In Western Australia this was largely used in the construction of main sewers, pumping stations and treatment facilities. By 1976 still just over half of all dwellings were unsewered, and it was estimated that sewering the backlog would cost approximately $800 million.

So I had a search to understand better the Whitlam scheme for sewerage and found Sewerage Agreements Act 1974 relating to the Government of the State of Victoria “As from the coming into force of this agreement … the amount of the financial assistance that may be provided in accordance with the Principal Agreement shall be increased by 3,950,000 dollars, that is, to a total amount of 13,250,000 dollars.”

Equivalent in 2017 dollars to AUD106 million ( Queensland receiving AUD 4.1m total after the 1974 increase, in 2017 prices approximately AUD$32.8m.

Not visited on this trip but the Frost et al book noting that in Perth: “Federal funding assisted in the expansion of sewerage in the early 1970s, but half of all dwellings were still without sewerage when the funding ceased. The state government soon compelled developers to provide reticulated sewerage in all new subdivisions. From the early 1990s, government accelerated its efforts to sewer Perth’s northern suburbs to keep pace with suburban growth. Many Perth properties remained reliant on septic tanks and this has hindered urban consolidation.”

This text also referencing ‘The Sewering of Brisbane. Source: John Cole, Shaping a City: Greater Brisbane 1925-1985, William Brooks, Brisbane, 1984’

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