Central Coast and Tillegra

IT is beyond doubt that water supply authorities on the Central Coast wanted Tillegra Dam to be built.

The coast's WaterPlan 2050, its blueprint for long-term water security, lists the dam as the first among a range of options to drought-proof the region.

By unexpectedly announcing the dam in November 2006, when the coast's drought was dire and reserves were under 15 per cent, the NSW Government was giving the Central Coast what it wanted and playing good politics in the lead-up to an election.

For some months the Hunter had been piping large amounts of water to the coast but there were limits to what it could supply. Tillegra, previously considered a future option if Hunter water demand grew vigorously, promised to remove those limits, drought-proofing both regions for many, many decades.

Now, however, the Central Coast has changed its mind.

Gosford Mayor Chris Holstein has conceded that Tillegra was the coast's preferred option, but this changed in May 2007 when the Federal Government also in election mode unexpectedly promised $80 million to build a pipeline from the Wyong River to the Central Coast's Mangrove Creek Dam.

The pipeline made Tillegra redundant from the coast's point of view, especially since coast users would have been paying top dollar for Tillegra water.

Having trumpeted the Central Coast benefits when it announced the dam, the State Government is now shrugging off the Central Coast's change of heart, promising the marginal seat voters that they won't have to pay a penny towards Tillegra.

Not only that, the Government's decision to exempt property developers from contributing to the dam's cost through levies means Hunter Water's budget for the project is up in the air.

The only option left to finance Tillegra is to crank up the water bills of existing Hunter Water customers who are already facing a massive increase in bills over the next four years.

This hardly seems fair. At the time the dam was announced it was clear that the Central Coast was intended to be a beneficiary. If the coast hadn't been in drought it is debatable whether the announcement would have occurred.

The Government helped make this mess and it should not leave Hunter residents to clean up on their own.

Danger on the roads

MOTORISTS be warned: the roads are busy, many drivers are impatient and the Hunter's highway patrol officers are out in force. Driving during the holiday season is going to require unusual patience and the consequences for those who can't muster some could be serious. The region's police are striving to keep the road toll as low as possible using all the methods at their disposal, including double demerit penalties. Young drivers, in particular, should use extra caution. Statistics demonstrate they are at greater risk of accident than more experienced motorists, with 26 teenagers dying on the region's roads over the past three years. That's a dreadful tally that should not be allowed to grow.