Good morning and welcome to the official opening of the Robertson Sewerage Scheme.
Before I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners and custodians of this land on which we meet today and pay my respect to Elders past and present.
It’s only fair to say that today’s opening, as clichéd as it may sound, has been many years in the making.
For this reason alone, I will dispense with tradition and begin where many speeches end, by thanking the parties involved in making this multi-million dollar scheme a reality.
First and foremost I thank the residents of Robertson.
Thank you for your support, perseverance and most importantly, your patience.
It’s also fair to say that this scheme presented many challenges and at times – delays.
But from original conception until when connections began, the residents of Robertson never lost sight of the bigger picture of how this scheme – on completion – would deliver far reaching benefits right across the town and indeed the greater catchment area, regardless of the short-term inconvenience.
But of course significant and complex projects such as these do not materialise by themselves.
They require substantial assistance and in the case of this project, financial support was provided by a number of our State partners.
First and foremost I’d like to thank the NSW Office of Water for their contribution of almost $8.5 million dollars under the Country Towns Water Supply and Sewerage Program.
A further $8.3 million dollars came from the Sydney Catchment Authority under its Accelerated Sewerage Program with the balance of $16 million dollars being provided by Wingecarribee Shire Council.
So what does the village of Robertson get for $32.6 million dollars?
A state-of-the-art sewerage scheme and sewage treatment plant for starters.
Built to initially accommodate up to 2000 people, the scheme collects the village’s wastewater via an underground network of 25 kilometres of sewerage reticulation pipe work before transporting it to a newly constructed pumping station.
From there it is pumped to the world-class sewage treatment plant from which we just returned from, where it undergoes advanced tertiary treatment including micro-filtration and ultraviolet light disinfection.
But this is not the end of the story!
In a first for our Shire, the now high quality effluent – or end product – is then transferred via a 15 kilometre effluent transfer main to a purpose built 47 million litre storage dam in Glenquarry where it is then used for pasture irrigation on 42 hectares of agricultural land.
The benefits of this are two-fold.
Not only are we removing what was previously in some cases untreated effluent from the local waterway, we’re now treating it to the point where it’s become a valuable by-product. Importantly, it also means we’ve moved the treated effluent downstream of the Wingacarribee Dam.
The days of septic pump-out are indeed now numbered for one of the Shire’s prettiest villages.
But how did we come to this point?
To answer we must look back some years.
Designing and constructing a sewerage scheme for Robertson was always going to throw up its fair share of problems.
What with its environmentally sensitive location atop the escarpment that feeds to four water catchment areas, unique flora and high rainfall……did anyone really think it was going to be a walk in the park!
Indeed the scheme was mooted many years ago but it wasn’t until late 1998, almost 15 years ago, that a Feasibility Study for the scheme was presented to the community.
This was followed up with detailed investigations which culminated with an Options Report being presented two years later.
From this it was decided to re-assess options for the scheme which led to a second Options Report being presented to the public in late 2002.
Five months later in March 2003, Council selected its preferred option for the scheme, which included the location of the sewage treatment plant we just returned from.
In late 2005 an Environmental Assessment and preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement for the scheme commenced which was finally placed on public exhibition in August of 2008.
In 2009 things really began to pick up speed with the acquisition of the land for the irrigation being finalised, final approval being granted for the scheme and a draft reticulation scheme being presented to residents.
Then in 2010 tenders were called for the two main contracts, these were subsequently awarded to AJ Lucas in March of 2011.
Four months later in July 2011 construction around the village finally began, and then almost two years to the day in 2013 residential connections begin.
Fast forward to today, Friday the 24 September 2013, and with this official opening, we finally draw a close on the delivery of the Robertson Sewage Scheme.
I’m sure many people would look at that timeline and ask why we persisted?
But I think the argument is clear.
Cleaner local waterways, better protected water catchments and healthier environment are the obvious pluses.
Removing pump-out trucks from the streets and reducing the risks of overflows are other obvious benefits.
What is often overlooked is the fact that we are now providing a more equitable sewage scheme for all residents and future proofing the village for generations to come.
So let me once again thank everyone who made this scheme a reality.
To our government partners and the head contractor, A J Lucas, thank you once again.
I congratulate the previous councillors who debated the issues all those years ago and commend them on their foresight and finally to the staff of Council who persisted and dreamt of this day all those years ago – thank you.
But in closing, I’ll finish how I began and thank the residents of Robertson for their patience and support, and I trust you enjoy all the benefits this scheme will bring for many years to come.
Councillor Juliet Arkwright
Mayor of Wingecarribee Shire Council