Water cut unwanted housewarming ‘gift’
BERNARD and Lisa Thomas had just settled into their new home at Uralba when they got a letter from Ballina Shire Council saying their water supply would be disconnected.
They are part of a group of residents being left high and dry by the council after it voted to cut mains water supply to properties in Pimlico and Uralba to save the cost of repairing the area's leaking water pipe.
The decision has prompted threats of legal action with residents saying it will damage property values and agricultural pursuits in the area.
"We'd only been in the place for three weeks, we came home on a Friday and there was an envelope in the letterbox from the council saying the water supply was being terminated," Mr Thomas said.
They had been renting in East Ballina when they discovered the house on a 4000sq m bush block and fell in love with it.
They had carried out conveyancing surveys when they went through the purchase and there was nothing to indicate the council was considering cutting off the water supply.
"From what we've gathered, there wasn't any consultation with people about it," he said.
"Our immediate thoughts were the people we bought from must have known and done the dirty on us but I think they were as ignorant as we were."
Mr Thomas said if the council wasn't able to supply them with an alternative supply in the form of water tanks and a pump, they would be in real trouble.
"Because we've just bought, we've extended ourselves (financially) as much as we can.
"If the council doesn't compensate us, we haven't got a hope of affording putting in tanks and all of the other infrastructure we'd need."
He said the council could afford to replace the mains pipe and the decision not to was a shock for the community.
"The number of people (it affects) is irrelevant," Mr Thomas said.
"It's all economically motivated, with no care for the people at the end of it."
Council turns off tap
PLANS by Ballina Shire Council to cut the mains water supply to properties on Pimlico and Uralba Rds could end up in court, with residents saying it will result in a loss of land value and cause significant damage to their ability to carry out farming and commercial operations.
The council was presented with a report in July last year saying the Smith Dr mains water pipe had deteriorated to a point where it was responsible for the loss of 16% of all water loss across the Ballina Shire network.
The council voted in February to replace the mains pipe up to Emigrant Creek so businesses in the West Ballina industrial area would continue to be serviced. But properties on the western side of the creek will have their service terminated, with the council saying it will consider supplying tanks and pumps to affected residents.
Not surprisingly, the residents are not happy with the decision and barrister Frank Curran said they were considering legal action.
"The council would concede they are required to compensate us for the damage the termination of the water supply will cause ... I would say the effect could be to reduce land values by up to 10%, which in my case would be quite a significant amount," he said.
Mr Curran has 200ha with sugar cane, soy beans and horses. He was born and raised on the farm and the water supply has been there since his grandfather connected to it in 1937.
He said he and other residents were "taken by surprise" when they were recently notified by mail of the council's decision.
He said there had been a survey of water usage in the area but none of the residents had been informed the council was considering cutting off the service.
"It was somewhat of a shock," he said.
"If we had known we would have turned up in force at the council chambers."
Another resident Kirk Trease agreed the council should have consulted with residents first.
"When I purchased here 12 years ago, having town water was a major factor in deciding and I expected that service would continue," he said.
Ballina Mayor David Wright said it would cost the council an extra $1 million to replace the mains water pipe west of Emigrant Creek and they had made a decision that it wasn't up to Ballina's ratepayers to subsidise the cost of supplying water to a small number of rural properties.
He said the council's legal advice was they would not be liable to compensate for a loss of property values.