Cairns Regional Council has received an independent Business Case Options Analysis Report affirming the city’s water security needs and that the Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 project is the preferred solution, with Council stating there is a lack of State and Federal Government funding in place to support the required project. 

Cairns Regional Council said the report also highlights the significant financial implications for the Cairns community and Council if external project funding is not secured, and possible drinking water shortfalls. 

Water access and usage charges are expected to increase about $226 extra per year for each water user over 30 years, a total of about $6,800 for each water user.

The report, tabled at Council’s Planning and Environment Committee meeting, outlined the impacts to residents if there was no State and Federal Government funding for the Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 project.

Council is seeking a $215 million contribution from the State and Federal Governments ($107.5 million each) toward the project, with the balance funded by Council.

Cairns Mayor, Bob Manning, welcomed the report, which he noted confirmed Council’s position on the city’s water needs.

“This 744-page report simply tells us the three things we already knew,” Mayor Manning said.

“Firstly, that we have a water problem – a potential drinking water shortfall by 2026.”

Copperlode Falls Dam was built in 1976 when 58,000 people lived in Cairns. In 2022, this same water source has to service a population of 198,000 (residents and visitors).

“Quite simply, Copperlode will not be able to meet the water needs of our growing population,” Mayor Manning said.

“Secondly, the project we have been planning and working towards for years (the Cairns Water Security – Stage 1 Project) is the right solution to that problem.

“And thirdly, the Cairns community simply can’t afford to fund this project on its own.”

The report highlighted that without government funding, the additional costs associated with the project (debt repayments and operating costs) would result in significant increases in water access and usage charges – the increase peaking at 32 per cent initially, then progressively decreasing over the 30 years following the project’s completion.

“In dollar terms, that increase is an average of $226 extra per year, for each water user over 30 years, or a total of about $6,800 for each water user,” Mayor Manning said.

“Without funding from other levels of government, the cost borne by the ratepayers and residents of Cairns is significant and ongoing.”

The report estimates the cost of the project will be $248 million, making it the single largest capital project Council has ever undertaken.

“We know that Council and ratepayers will have to meet some of the costs of this project, and we accept that,” Mayor Manning said.

“But when State and Federal Governments are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in water projects for other regions in Queensland – surely our water needs warrant similar support.

“The project delivers additional water capacity like a dam but at a fraction of the cost and with a much smaller environmental footprint.”

Mayor Manning said that the project had the support of Federal Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch, as well as his state counterparts.


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