Mystery surrounds impacts of Somerset Dam safety upgrade
UNANSWERED questions, undated letters and unconfirmed commitments have plagued a council's quest for information regarding the planned safety upgrade to Somerset Dam.
There are major concerns in the community about the impact the project might have on the historic Somerset Dam village adjoining the construction site.
Seqwater has invited community groups and stakeholders to form a Community Reference Group to address and discuss these concerns, but have been vague in providing further information about this CRG, or responding to other inquiries.
In an undated letter received in November, council was invited to nominate one representative for the CRG, but Seqwater have failed to address questions about how many other members the group will have, where they will be drawn from, or who they will represent.
For several months, Somerset Regional Council have also been seeking written confirmation that Seqwater will commit to a previously-discussed $1,040,000 legacy package for the Somerset Dam village.
The legacy package is meant to support local infrastructure projects, in acknowledgment of the significant, adverse impacts the dam upgrade is expected to have on the village.
A subsequent letter from Seqwater Chief Executive Officer Neil Brennan in December included a refusal to commit to this package.
"It is premature at this stage to speculate on the specific areas and levels of impact on the
community, and therefore, appropriate legacy packages," Mr Brennan wrote.
"Seqwater is unable to commit to funding the council's proposed legacy package, as it falls outside the Business Case Development Framework."
Council has also requested for Seqwater to ensure it will provide opportunities for local operators and businesses to be able to participate competitively in the project.
"We've got to push hard for local businesses to get something out of all this," councillor Robert Whalley said.
This concern was also addressed in Mr Brennan's letter.
"Regarding Council's resolution of 13 November 2019, I can confirm Seqwater's existing
policies for major construction projects include local procurement targets," he said.
"In fact, enhancing economic benefits, including maximising opportunities for local small to medium-sized businesses, will be the subject of one of the future CRG workshops."
The first meeting of the CRG is set to commence in February, but council's selection is further complicated by the upcoming election in March.
Mr Brennan's letter recommended council consider appointing a non-elected representative to attend the workshops and meetings.