More money for assets, says councillor

Cr Kerry Brown: Pictured at the entrance to Leura Cascades culvert. She believes council should spend more on maintaining assets including drains and roads.
Cr Kerry Brown: Pictured at the entrance to Leura Cascades culvert. She believes council should spend more on maintaining assets including drains and roads.

Former Greens councillor Kerry Brown believes council should borrow money against future rates income to help renew its essential infrastructure, especially roads and drainage.

"Renewal of council's ageing assets was a primary justification for the permanent 28 per cent rates rise on top of the standard increases that were approved in 2015. This was also a main reason for the three-year temporary rates increase from 2011," she said.

"Despite these rates rises, the council asset renewal ratio has averaged 35 per cent of depreciation for the last six years. The minimum requirement is 100 per cent."

She said the local government area was on the watershed of a mountain range. "Drainage is one of our biggest issues both to protect the World Heritage Area and for safety."

Ms Brown said the closure for almost two years of Cliff Drive through Leura Cascades was because the culvert under the road was structurally unsound.

"This has nothing to do with the February 2020 landslide at the Cascades which was cleaned up and stabilised and luckily led to the discovery of the culvert's deteriorating condition.

"The concrete culvert has cracks that are widening."

Ms Brown said an estimated $1 million was needed for urgent work to prevent the culvert collapsing and a further $3.5m to rebuild it and the road.

"The culvert did not qualify for disaster funding because its condition is due to its age, not flooding. There is a grant application in process at the moment which would help with some costs.

"However, in my view council must commit to renewing this road infrastructure immediately regardless of whether it receives grant assistance... Interest rates remain at an historic low so this is an excellent time to borrow against future rates income for critical renewal of assets."

Ms Brown said the cost of the clean-up on asbestos at council sites had also taken a toll on resources for asset renewal.

"On top of at least $15 million already spent, council needs to spend another five to six million to complete the asbestos remediation work at Katoomba Waste Management Facility and the former Blackheath tip."

The mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, disputed the accuracy of some of Ms Brown's comments.

"Council has, in fact, worked hard to reduce debt in recent years to provide an additional $4 million per annum for asset renewal and service delivery. This has come from our reduced debt servicing costs and the council is operating responsibly and within its means.

"I'm confident that the structural issues at the culvert at Leura will be repaired without incurring debt costs in the near future."