Proposed Levee Funding Changes Challenged At Forum

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More than 50 people attended Committee 4 Wagga’s Forum on proposed changes to funding for Wagga Wagga’s Levee Bank Upgrade.

The Forum was organised to provide discussion and feedback on Wagga Wagga City Council’s proposed removal of $6.7m in funding for the project from its Draft Long Term Financial Plan.

Committee 4 Wagga Chair, Judy Galloway opened the meeting outlining Committee 4 Wagga’s concerns regarding Levee Bank funding. “We’re particularly concerned of the impact removing the funding will have on the development and prosperity of the CBD and Wagga as a whole” said Mrs Galloway.

WWCC Director of Corporate Services, Craig Richardson outlined Council’s proposed removal of $6.7m from its budget and possible funding alternatives being considered including seeking a special rate variation of 3.25% over 5 years.

Committee 4 Wagga CEO Chris Fitzpatrick pointed out that such a rate variation would require both significant community support and approval from the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, both of which added further uncertainty to Levee Bank funding.

Chris Egan, Director of Egan Valuers highlighted the impact of flood on property values and Wagga’s real estate market calling the Levee System “the single biggest factor” that could affect real estate investment in the city. Mr Egan used the Brisbane Flood as an example citing decreases in property values of up to 20% after the 2011 flood event.

The significant negative impact that uncertainty surrounding the city’s flood security is having on the insurance industry was addressed by Scott Brown, Manager of Peter L Brown and Associates.

Former Member for Riverina and Wagga City Councillor Kay Hull urged the community to be shovel ready. “You will not get funding from Government until you are shovel ready”, “Governments generally don’t fund programs that are not long term plans” and “You, Council, need to be ready when the funding’s available”. Mrs Hull labelled the proposed changes “short term gain” for “long term pain”.

Local residents also joined the debate, throwing their support behind retaining current funding commitments “We urge Council not to withdraw Levee Upgrade funding, this funding has the potential to make or break our city” said Laurie Blowes, President North Wagga Residents Association.

Committee 4 Wagga will provide outcomes and feedback from the Forum to Wagga Wagga City Council via its community consultation process.

NewsCristy Houghton