Dubbo ratepayers do not want to put up $3 million to install a structure that allows fish to swim up river, a Dubbo councillor says.
Cr Peter Bartley argued it would be the height of “fiscal irresponsibility” to proceed with a fishway at the South Dubbo weir, but not all councillors were against the proposal.
Deputy mayor Mathew Dickerson said Dubbo City Council had a responsibility to look after the environment for future generations.
Council technical services director Stewart McLeod last night recommended to the works and services committee the inclusion of the fishway project in the water funds capital works program, but not yet the budget.
It would cost the city $2.9 million.
Mr McLeod told the committee the council would seek a NSW government grant of up to $500,000 and other external sources of funding.
Cr Bartley would not have a bar of it.
“I think ratepayers would think we were living in a parallel universe (if we approved this),” he said.
Even with a $500,000 grant, ratepayers would not want the council to spend more than $2 million on the project, Cr Bartley said.
If asked what they would prefer, ratepayers would say clean drinking water ahead of a fishway, he said.
He also raised concerns the project could “sneak through” without coming back to councillors.
“While it could be a good project environmentally, it would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility for us to be considering putting this back into the capital works program when we might be forced to pay for it,” he said.
Dubbo mayor Allan Smith thought it was possible for the council to have “the best of both worlds”.
He said the project had regional value, and therefore should be funded by another tier of government.
To stop the project sneaking into the 2012/2013 budget he moved an amendment that prevented any works before the matter came back to the council.
The council will also pursue “appropriate levels of grant funding”.
Cr Bartley and Cr Ann Barnard raised doubts about the clause, saying they wanted total funding, or close to it.
Cr Dickerson disagreed, saying the council should provide some funds for the project because it had a responsibility to look after the environment.
A majority of the committee adopted the inclusion of the fishway into the capital works program with Cr Smith’s amendment, but Crs Bartley and Barnard maintained their opposition.
It will come before the ordinary meeting of Dubbo City Council next week.
The recommendation came one month after RiverSmart Australia boss Bill Phillips encouraged the council to remove the barrier to fish migration.
He also presented a petition to the council with 231 signatures calling on the council to install the fishway and fix cold water pollution caused by Burrendong Dam.