Burnside Council to spend $50k to audit water harvesting system
A troubled three-council water harvesting project that has nearly run out of millions of dollars in ratepayers’ money will be given a “health check” by an independent auditor.
Burnside Council has voted to allocate $50,000 for a review of Eastern Region Alliance Water’s long-term sustainability and value by an “independent advisory body” or “high level firm”.
The council’s chief executive officer, Paul Deb, admitted at this week’s council meeting that ERA Water still “don’t yet have a product to sell”.
It comes as the ERA Board requested council support last month to borrow a further $2.3 million just in case the next five years were unnaturally dry.
The two other councils involved — Walkerville and Norwood, Payneham and St Peters — have approved ERA Water borrowing the money.
But Burnside has called for a delay.
The project has suffered from a dry financial year, with one of its five bores failing to provide adequate amounts of water.
Cr Sarah Hughes said it was time for a “health check” through independent advice.
“This will perhaps give people more comfort in where we’re at the moment,” Cr Hughes said.
“We might be taking a leap of faith — but we’ll be more informed as we leap.”
Cr Lilian Henschke said it was time the project was independently audited.
“We really do have an obligation to do an independent project review,” she said.
“We can’t just keep investing millions of dollars into a project that hasn’t been completed. We owe it to our ratepayers to do that.
“This project is costing us a lot more than we envisaged, and it’s not working.
“There are significant difficulties in all of the drilling and the technical aspects of the project.”
Cr Paul Huebl said it was in the council’s best interests to see ERA Water be a success.
“The more information we have the better decision we can make,” Cr Huebl said.
“Due diligence is very important — this is community money really we’re talking about here.”
Calling for an independent auditor, Cr Jennifer Turnbull said ERA Water had “spent a bucket-full of money and there’s a hole in the bucket”.
However, Cr Henry Davis supported giving ERA Water $2.3 million, as the council needed to show “Burnside is behind this”.
“We are so close to launching, we are so close to producing water, we are so close to getting customers on board,” he said.
“We’re at the finish line — you just need to walk over the edge.”
The independent review will be presented to the council in June.
Burnside also approved ERA Water borrowing nearly $225,000 to run until June 30.