SunWater wants to ‘gift’ the running of the Fairbairn Dam’s recreational areas to the Central Highlands council.
SunWater wants to ‘gift’ the running of the Fairbairn Dam’s recreational areas to the Central Highlands council.

Giving a damn comes down to dollars, sense

SUNWATER is looking to offload the management and maintenance of recreational areas surrounding its assets, including the Fairbairn Dam, to councils throughout Queensland.

The Central Highlands council has agreed to contribute its views to a management plan, but Mayor Peter Maguire was loath to commit ratepayers to a venture he estimated would "cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year".

SunWater has indicated it would 'gift' the Fairbairn Dam's recreational surrounds to the council.

"It is a wonderful asset to the community from a tourism point of view, the fishing, the locals who make use of it and the sporting pursuits that are held there, but I suggest it's an expensive one for us to say we'll be taking on because someone doesn't want it," Cr Maguire said.

"We did have a closed session discussion with SunWater (last Monday).

"Essentially this proposal was discussed with the former Emerald council and it was rejected.

"The last time we looked at it we figured there was a lot of work out there to bring the facility up to a standard.

"Gifting it comes at a price.

"We can get a $5m piece of infrastructure and it still costs money to operate and maintain it.

"The ongoing operational costs to the ratepayer make it the same argument I would use for the Blackwater airport."

Cr Maguire said he was aware of ongoing safety issues at the dam involving alcohol, hooning and police call-outs.

Inheriting the liability from SunWater was another detractor in considering the takeover option.

"I understand SunWater have issues with liability, but if we take it over it becomes our liability," Cr Maguire said.

"It's just buck-passing from one to another… SunWater is a government-owned corporation, and it's a piece of infrastructure the state is trying to put on us."

A SunWater spokesman said the community benefit of Fairbairn Dam's recreation area was recognised and public safety was the "paramount outcome" of the management plan review.

The company would not comment on an SMS to CQ News that it planned to install gates or barriers to prevent entry to the dam at night.

"SunWater's core business s the development, management and operation of water infrastructure to deliver bulk water supplies," the spokesman said.

"Managing recreational areas for tourism is more in line with councils' core area of expertise.

"SunWater believes councils are better placed to own and operate community recreational facilities.

"They are better equipped to value add and improve these recreational areas for the enjoyment of the public and the community at large.

"SunWater is prepared to gift these assets to councils where they are prepared to take up ownership."

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