A letter promising to subsidise sewage pump-outs to Mountains residents not connected to the sewer has been hailed as the “smoking gun” by the mayor.
The letter, from then NSW Planning Minister Robert Webster, was unearthed by a Wentworth Falls resident after the council appealed for proof that Sydney Water had promised to put customers on the sewer.
This followed Sydney Water’s decision to stop the subsidy, which would mean hefty increases in pump-out costs for affected residents.
The mayor, Clr Mark Greenhill, said the letter was written in the 1990s in the time of the Greiner Government.
“This letter clearly indicates that there was a promise from government that these people would be connected to the sewer and that the subsidy would tide them over until this is done,” he said. “This is the smoking gun.”
“Residents have been telling us this promise was made. Here it is. The promise was made. Sydney Water needs to honour that promise.”
Blue Mountains Labor spokeswoman Trish Doyle, who has door-knocked many of the residents on the pump-out system, said people had told her they had been given an undertaking but couldn’t prove it —until the discovery of the letter.
“It’s the piece of evidence that we’ve been looking for that we can now take to government and say there was a commitment made,” she said. “I think in good faith the government should take [the letter] into account and keep that commitment to connect people to the sewer.”
Ms Doyle said she and the council would be taking the letter to Roza Sage and the government.
There are 72 Mountains residents who are not connected to the sewer and pay an annual fee for a pump-out service. Sydney Water announced earlier this year that the subsidy would be withdrawn from next month. After the council protested, it extended the deadline until June 2014.
Clr Romola Hollywood said many of the residents – who could face annual costs of up to $4900 a year without the subsidy – still felt extremely vulnerable.
“Unless the NSW Government steps in and changes its decision, these residents are facing enormously high costs to deal with their sewerage either through commercial pump-out rates or installation of expensive on-site alternatives.
“Bearing these costs which run into thousands of dollars is unfair, especially when many of these residents have neighbours down the street or across the road who are connected to the sewer. Sydney Water needs to finish the job of connecting these properties to the sewer,” Clr Hollywood said.
A spokeswoman said Sydney Water would investigate any information residents could provide confirming a commitment to connect.